Oscar Nominees and The Obstacles They Faced

February 23, 2015


There’s no way to get through a day without them: Obstacles. They come in innumerable shapes and sizes, but they all have the same thing in common–that is, they threaten to stop you in your tracks while in pursuit of your goal. And, as you probably know all too well, an actor’s journey is riddled with them. Now it may seem like this year’s Oscar nominees make their success look enviably easy, but they have had setbacks just like everyone else, and managed to get beyond them. Here are just a few examples of the hurdles that they encountered, and the change in their mindsets that resulted from the challenges they faced.

Julianne Moore just took home the Oscar for her portrayal of Alice in Still Alice. Her father worked in the US Army which meant that the Moore family needed to move around the United States when Julianne was a child. This brought about a strong sense of family unity, but she said she never had the feeling of any particular place being her home. This is understandable when you consider she lived in Alabama, Texas, Nebraska, Georgia, Panama, Alaska, New York and Virginia–all the while attending nine different schools. As a consequence, she was an anxious child and had trouble connecting with her peers. Although Moore didn’t know she would later become an actress, she does credit her nomadic growing years as being a blessing to her career in acting. “When you move around a lot, you learn that behavior is mutable. I would change, depending on where I was …. It teaches you to watch, to reinvent, that character can change.”

It’s hard to turn on the TV these days without someone talking about Bradley Cooper and his performance in the biographical war drama American Sniper. But he was at risk of stopping his acting career early on in its tracks due to substance addictions. Cooper once admitted that that when he was in the television show Alias, he was stuck in a cycle of substance abuse and addiction that lead to thoughts of suicide. At the age of 29 he had the realization, “Wow, I’m actually going to ruin my life; I’m really gonna ruin it.” Fortunately, he sought help and has abstained from his addictions. Ever since then, Cooper’s career has taken off with movies like The Hangover trilogy, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Benedict Cumberbatch is on fire these days. His work pace is arguably unmatched by any other actor in history, and this year he was nominated for a Best Actor by the Academy for his portrayal of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. But in 2005, things weren’t looking so good for Cumberbatch and a couple of his friends. The trio went on an adventure in KwaZulu, South Africa only to be abducted overnight by a group of locals. Indeed, they were held at gunpoint! For some unknown reason, the abductors brought the three men into unsettled territory, and released them. Upon reflecting about this noteworthy obstacle, Cumberbatch said, “It taught me that you come into this world as you leave it–on your own. It’s made me want to live a life less ordinary.”

When Rosamund Pike was catching the acting bug, she applied to several stage schools hoping to pursue an acting career. Unfortunately, she received rejection notice after rejection notice, and ended up being turned down by every stage school for which she applied. Instead of giving up, Pike then postponed her aspirations, and instead studied English Literature at Wadham College in Oxford. But after graduating, she took a year to get back to her dream career of acting in theater, amassing stage experience in a number of productions including several Shakespeare plays. Good thing she didn’t allow the school rejection notices to hamper her dreams or else she wouldn’t have starred in, and been nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Gone Girl.

The people with the will to persevere, and a flexible and creative mind are most likely to get beyond them. What bumps in the road have you experienced along the way as you develop as an actor? Did those challenges hurt or help bolster your resolve to be a working actor?