How to win an Oscar: 9 sure-fire tips for success
Meryl Streep

So you’ve always wanted to win an Oscar – but don’t know the best way to go about it? Never fear – help is at hand.

Glance over the roll-call of illustrious nominees from decades past and it’s easy to see what works. Ahead of Sunday’s big ceremony, here’s our sure-fire guide to how you can be in with a chance next year.

1. Play a real-life person

Two of the Best Actress nominees and a whopping four of the Best Actor contenders this year portrayed actual real-life human beings – but this is really nothing new. Since 2000, eight of the Best Actress winners and nine of the Best Actors played famous or inspirational figures in biopics. So strap on your best fake facial hair and period costume, and find a fascinating individual to inhabit.

2. …with a serious physical or psychological condition

Eddie Redmayne

From Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot to Colin Firth in The King’s Speech, the Academy digs a classic triumph-over-adversity story with an impaired protagonist at its centre. It’s no surprise that Eddie Redmayne’s turn as Stephen Hawking (above) has made him the frontrunner at this year’s bash.

3. Be a resurgent actor on the comeback trail

As Matthew McConaughey’s win proved last year, there’s nothing Oscar loves more than a formerly sidelined star roaring back with a vengeance. Similar examples include Jeff Bridges, Alan Arkin, Henry Fonda, Marlon Brando, Michael Caine and John Wayne, while the likes of Mickey Rourke and Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs Of New York) came damn close. There’s a reason for all that Keaton buzz.

4. …or a bright new/foreign thing no one’s ever heard of

The Academy loves ‘discovering’ new talent too. Lupita Nyong’o scooped Best Supporting Actress last year for her first-ever film role, and similar recent wet-behind-the-ears nominees have included Haley Joel Osmont, Hailee Steinfield, Rooney Mara and Barkhad Abdi. Oscar loves a plucky, hitherto unknown foreigner too: just look at the triumphant Christoph Waltz, Javier Bardem, Jean Dujardin and – most famously – Roberto Benigni.

5. Make a hard-hitting movie about war

War. Hmm. Yeah. What is it good for? Winning Academy Awards apparently. Roughly a third of Best Picture movies over the past half-century have had wars, soldiers and armed conflicts as their foremost subject (or at least a major part of their make-up), while countless acting, screenwriting and technical honours have also been tied-up in this subject matter.

6. Make a multi-stranded ensemble drama where the characters are ‘all connected’


Ah. So profound. Let’s have a vast array of characters across a whole host of storylines – all linked by a particular theme. Add in some powerful, sentimental music, lots of soul-searching and some very unlikely meetings later on, and you have all the ingredients for a pretentious clean-sweep – even if the entire thing is utterly naff.

7. Make a smart-ass, offbeat indie comedy about someone coming to terms with a serious life problem

Whether it’s depression in Sideways, teen pregnancy in Juno or a dysfunctional family in Little Miss Sunshine, Oscar just loves a wry, witty and humorous look at modern-day personal issues. Essentially a shoe-in for Best Original Screenplay, if you can pull it off.

8. Do a musical

Since the Academy Awards began, song-and-dance extravaganzas have won an astonishing 131 Oscars in total – and been nominated for countless more. They’re disproprortionately likely to scoop Best Picture too, with famous winners including Oliver!, CabaretChicago and West Side Story.

9. Be Meryl Streep

She has more Oscar nominations than any other actor in history, and is one of only a handful of performers to have won three or more. Hell, despite a highly competitive twelve months she’s even up for Best Supporting Actress this year thanks to a good-but-not-great turn in fairytale Into The Woods. If you’re Meryl Streep, you’re going to be on that red carpet.

Featured Picture: Getty Images

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