Best Actress Oscar nominees: Which 3 women contended for a whopping two hours plus of screen time each?
By Matthew Stewart
January 30, 2021
While longer Best Actress-nominated performances are rarer than ones contending for Best Actor, there has been a significant amount of them over 92 years. Indeed, 44 have surpassed 90 minutes of screen time, and the overall longest nominated performance of all time comes from this category. Here is a look at the 10 longest ever nominated for the award:
10. Rosalind Russell (“Auntie Mame”)
1 hour, 48 minutes, 23 seconds (75.59% of the film)
Over the course of 16 years, Russell competed for the Best Actress Oscar four times, and her final bid was for playing an eccentric socialite who is tasked with raising her nephew. All four of her nominations were for relatively long performances, averaging one hour, 30 minutes, and 42 seconds and over 71%. She never won and lost in 1959 to Susan Hayward, who was on her fifth and final nomination for her one-hour, 15-minute, and 26-second performance in “I Want to Live!”.
9. Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”)
1 hour, 49 minutes, 55 seconds (83.87% of the film)
45 years after making her film debut, Huppert received her first Oscar nomination for her role as Michele Leblanc, a rape victim who becomes obsessed with identifying her assailant. Hers was the longest of all 20 performances nominated in 2017, which is a distinction that has applied to women only 35% of the time in Academy Awards history. She was also the eighth actress to be nominated for an entirely French-speaking role. She ultimately lost to Emma Stone, who appears in one hour, 20 minutes, and 41 seconds of “La La Land.”
8. Bette Midler (“The Rose”)
1 hour, 51 minutes, 31 seconds
After winning a Grammy and an Emmy, Midler earned her first Oscar nomination in 1980 for her intense portrayal of rock and roll singer Mary Rose Foster. Although Sally Field won the award for her one hour, 20 minutes, and 46 seconds of screen time in “Norma Rae,” Midler’s performance brought her two Golden Globes, for Best Actress (Comedy/Musical) and New Star of the Year – Female. She also won a second Grammy for her recording of the title song, which peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
7. Audrey Hepburn (“The Nun’s Story”)
1 hour, 52 minutes, 50 seconds (74.49% of the film)
In 1960, Hepburn earned her third of five lead acting nominations for playing Gaby Van Der Mal, a woman who spends over a decade trying to adapt to life as a nun. Academy voters chose to award Simone Signoret’s much shorter performance in “Room at the Top,” which totals just 38 minutes and seven seconds. Besides Susan Hayward, Hepburn is the only actress to be nominated for five or more performances that all reach the one hour screen time mark, with her shortest being her one-hour, one-minute, and 14-second turn in 1954’s “Sabrina.”
6. Meryl Streep (“Out of Africa”)
1 hour, 52 minutes, 57 seconds (70.24% of the film)
Streep’s fourth Best Actress nomination came for her impassioned portrayal of author Karen Blixen. It ranks as the longest of her 21 Oscar-nominated performances, all of which add up to 21 hours, 19 minutes, and 39 seconds of screen time. She has won in this category twice (for 1982’s “Sophie’s Choice” and 2011’s “The Iron Lady”), but lost this time to Geraldine Page, who finally triumphed on her eighth bid for her one-hour, 18-minute, and 39-second performance in “The Trip to Bountiful.”
5. Judy Garland (“A Star Is Born”)
1 hour, 56 minutes, 12 seconds (65.90% of the film)
Garland received her only Best Actress nomination in 1955 for playing Esther Blodgett, a small-time singer who becomes a successful film actress with the help of an established male star. Janet Gaynor and Lady Gaga have also been nominated for their incarnations of the same role, though both of their screen times fall under Garland’s by at least 26 minutes. Although Garland was widely expected to win, she notoriously lost to Grace Kelly, who appears in just 45 minutes and 46 seconds of “The Country Girl.”
4. Liv Ullmann (“Face to Face”)
1 hour, 58 minutes, 6 seconds (86.74% of the film)
Ullmann earned her second nomination in this category for playing mentally ill psychiatrist Jenny Isaksson. Her exceptionally long performance in this film starkly contrasts with her shorter one in “The Emigrants,” for which she received her first nomination. She appears in less than one hour of that 191-minute film. She also stood out from her competitors in 1977, who have an average screen time of 39 minutes and five seconds. In the end, Faye Dunaway was chosen as the winner for her 42 minutes and two seconds of screen time in “Network.”
3. Barbra Streisand (“Funny Girl”)
2 hours, 1 minute, 2 seconds (78.03% of the film)
The most recent tie in an acting category occurred in 1969, when Katharine Hepburn won her third Best Actress award for her one hour, 10 minutes, and 38 seconds of screen time in “The Lion in Winter” and Streisand won her first for her film debut. After losing both a Tony and a Grammy for playing the role of Fanny Brice, she finally succeeded at the Oscars. Hers was the fourth and remains one of only eight Oscar-nominated performances to reach the two hour screen time mark.
2. Diana Ross (“Lady Sings the Blues”)
2 hours, 1 minute, 38 seconds (84.56% of the film)
Like Streisand, Ross also received her first Oscar nomination for her film debut, and her portrayal of singer Billie Holiday also brought her a Grammy bid. Her nomination in 1973 was history-making, as the year marked the first and only time that two Black actresses competed against each other in the lead category. Cicely Tyson was also up for her performance in “Sounder,” which is over three times smaller than Ross’s. They both lost to Liza Minnelli, who appears in one hour, three minutes, and 10 seconds of “Cabaret.”
1. Vivien Leigh (“Gone with the Wind”)
2 hours, 23 minutes, 32 seconds (61.61% of the film)
The relatively inexperienced Leigh won the coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara after a famously exhaustive casting search that involved the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, and Bette Davis. By appearing in the majority of the nearly four-hour epic film, hers is the longest performance to ever win or be nominated for an Oscar in any category. It was also the first Oscar-nominated performance to have at least two hours of screen time and stood alone in that regard for 20 years. When she won for a second time for her one hour, 33 minutes, and four seconds of screen time in 1951’s “A Streetcar Named Desire,” she earned a second spot on the list of longest Best Actress-winning performances. At the time, her portrayal of Blanche DuBois ranked third, and it now ranks sixth.