When 11-year-old Anna Paquin won Best Supporting Actress at the 1993 Academy Awards, she became the category’s second youngest winner (only Tatum O’Neal was younger, at 10). Paquin hesitantly stepped onto the stage and, in true oh-my-gosh-I-just-won-an-Oscar fashion, was speechless for 20 seconds. Then, after thanking a few individuals, the preteen promptly skipped down the stairs and returned to her seat, leaving presenter Gene Hackman with no one to take backstage.
It all made for a precious Oscar moment, but did Paquin truly deserve the Oscar for her performance as Holly Hunter’s daughter in The Piano? It’s especially tricky to gauge the true talent level of young actors in breakout performances: Are we witnessing one-trick pony material or the real thing? Paquin has since offered numerous examples of acting ability, and there’s no doubting that she held her own against Hunter. But was she more worthy than fellow nominees Winona Ryder (The Age of Innocence), Rosie Perez (Fearless), Emma Thompson (In the Name of the Father), and — gulp — Holly Hunter herself (The Firm)? That’s the question we’ve been asking the entertainment industry in our Recall the Gold survey of all the major Oscars from 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years ago, and now, PopWatchers, it’s your turn to have a say.
Ryder was the odds-on favorite going into the ceremony. Her introverted turn as Daniel Day-Lewis’s wife-to-be in 19th-century New York won her a Golden Globe and her first Oscar nomination. Yet the leisurely pace of Innocence may have put off some voters, and Ryder’s character didn’t capture people’s hearts in the way that Paquin’s did. Rosie Perez was also a strong contender for dialing down her “Fight the Power” intensity to play a mother who loses her baby in a plane crash. But Fearless was a box-office flop. Also in the derby were Thompson and Hunter, but they were considered longshots. Thompson had a small but memorable part in In the Name of the Father as Gareth Peirce, the real-life British lawyer who fought to clear the names of the Guildford Four. However, voters were probably suffering from Emma Thompson fatigue — she was also up for her leading performance in The Remains of the Day and had just won Best Actress the previous year for Howards End. As for Hunter, she was practically assured to win the Best Actress Oscar for The Piano, so voters had little incentive to also award her snazzy but less striking performance as a secretary in The Firm.
So, PopWatchers, take out your Oscar pens and tell us whom you thought should have won in our poll below. If you need a reminder of each performance, check out clips from each film after the jump. While you’re at it, if you haven’t already, vote in all the other polls from our ongoing walk down Oscar’s memory lane. Tomorrow, we’ll examine the 1983 Best Actor race, and you can check out coverage of this year’s awards contenders in Dave Karger’s Oscar Watch blog.
Holly Hunter, The Firm
Anna Paquin, The Piano
Rosie Perez, Fearless
Winona Ryder, The Age of Innocence – (trailer)
Emma Thompson, In the Name of the Father