The Oscars could produce one of the oldest quartets of acting winners ever

In a rare occurrence, three of the four acting categories are still up in the air as we inch closer to Oscar Sunday. And depending on the permutation of the victorious quartet, we could have one of the oldest groups of winners ever.

Most of the top contenders in each category are over the age of 50. Ke Huy Quan, the closest thing to a lock in Best Supporting Actor, is 51. His “Everything Everywhere All at Once” co-stars and fellow Screen Actors Guild Awards winners Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis are 60 and 64, respectively. Yeoh’s been neck and neck this whole time in Best Actress with Cate Blanchett (“TÁR”), who is 53. Curtis pulled off her supporting actress SAG upset over fellow 64-year-old veteran Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”). And in lead actor, SAG-AFTRA crowned 54-year-old Brendan Fraser for “The Whale.”

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If any combination of these people prevail, it’d be the second time in Oscar history all four acting winners are at least 50 years old. The first time was the class of 1981, which boasted three septuagenarians — 76-year-old Best Actor Henry Fonda (“On Golden Pond”), 74-year-old Best Actress Katharine Hepburn (“On Golden Pond”) and 77-year-old Best Supporting Actor John Gielgud (“Arthur”) — and 56-year-old Best Supporting Actress Maureen Stapleton (“Reds”). The average winner age that year was 70.75. If the SAG foursome repeats at the Oscars, their average age of 57.25 will make them the third oldest quartet, edging out the class of 2017, which, with an average of 56.5, made them the second oldest foursome to triumph at the time. They have since been usurped by the class of 2020 — featuring the oldest acting winner ever, then-83-year-old Best Actor champ Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) — which had an average age of 62.75. If Blanchett wins instead of Yeoh, the average age would be 55.5, tying the group for fourth oldest with the class of 2011, which had then-82-year-old Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”), who won Best Supporting Actor.

The caveat is that the supporting categories weren’t added until the ninth ceremony, so if you’re looking at the oldest sets of winners overall, then-53-year-old Best Actor champ Lionel Barrymore (“A Free Soul”) and then-63-year-old Best Actress Marie Dressler (“Min and Bill”) had an average age of 58 at the fourth Academy Awards.

SEE Austin Butler can break new ground for ’90s babies with a Best Actor Oscar win for ‘Elvis’

Even though the industry and the Oscars have historically favored the young, especially when it comes to women, things have been trending in the opposite direction the past few years. Emma Stone (2016’s “La La Land”), then 28, was the last Best Actress champ in her 20s. Since then, we’ve had two in their 40s (Olivia Colman, 45, 2018’s “The Favourite”; Jessica Chastain, also 45, 2021’s “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”), one in her 50s (50-year-old Renee Zellweger, 2019’s “Judy”), and Frances McDormand winning twice in her 60s — at 60 for 2017’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and at 63 for 2020’s “Nomadland.” The “Nomadland” victory made her the third oldest Best Actress champ ever, behind Jessica Tandy (80, 1989’s “Driving Miss Daisy”) and the aforementioned Hepburn.

The majority of the recent groups of acting winners has also leaned older. The class of 2017 nearly had all four over the age of 50 if it were not for then-49-year-old supporting actor champ Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards”). The following year, then-37-year-old Best Actor winner Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) was the only one in his 30s while everyone else was in their 40s. The next year, three of them were in their 50s, save for Best Actor champ Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”), who was 45.

The past two years have seen a thirtysomething break the curve. Daniel Kaluuya, then 32, won supporting actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” offsetting 83-year-old Hopkins, 63-year-old McDormand and 73-year-old Yuh-Jung Youn, who won supporting actress for “Minari.” Last year, 31-year-old Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”) nabbed supporting actress honors alongside lead champs Chastain and Will Smith (53, “King Richard”) and supporting actor winner Troy Kotsur (53, “CODA”).

Of course, some younger stars can break up the potential half-century party this year. The supporting actress race remains chaotic and BAFTA champ Kerry Condon (“The Banshees of Inisherin”), who turned 40 in January, could eke out a win over Curtis and Bassett, the latter of whom has lost some steam since scoring the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award. And Fraser is in a tight one against Globe and BAFTA recipient Austin Butler (“Elvis”), who would be the fifth youngest Best Actor winner at 31. Not only that, but he’d be the first Best Actor champ who was born in the 1990s.

They say youth is wasted on the young, so will the Oscars go with age-old wisdom?

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