What you need to win an Oscar, says science

What do Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman have in common?

Anne Hathaway crying during Oscars acceptance speech

Are any of your favourites nominated? The 89th Academy Awards is set to be aired this Sunday night, and before the big event, we thought we’d take a moment to think about what it takes to actually win one of these highly coveted awards.

What do Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman all have in common, besides their Oscar nominations this year? According to science, it takes more than just acting skills, personality and good looks to win an Academy Award. You have to choose a movie that’s going to reflect the social experiences of the judges.

A study conducted at Australia’s very own University of Queensland analysed the Best Actor and Best Actress winners at both the Oscars and BAFTA awards over the last four decades and found some interesting trends.

It turns out that recipients of the prized trophies were actors who portrayed characters with experiences that reflected those of the judges. In other words, American actors playing American people in American films are more likely to strike a chord with American judges. Likewise, British actors playing British people in British films have a higher chance of receiving accolades from British judges. What this means is that when judges are picking winners, they’re not just looking for talent but for performances that line up with their own social and cultural identity.

But it’s a tad more involved than that. So, if you’re thinking of switching to an acting career, hoping to receive fame and recognition for your role, these elements are your recipe for silver screen success, according to The Advertiser:

  • land a leading role: it makes sense that your likelihood of winning awards increases with the amount of screen time you get.
  • have a big, big problem: there’s nothing like seeing someone struggle to make you want to identify with them; think war, poverty, disease, heartbreak.
  • be able to cry on demand: how well you act (and whether you’re worthy of winning an award) is directly linked to whether you can cry convincingly on camera without ruining the make up artist’s work.

So when you sit down to watch the Oscars on Sunday night, try paying attention to the roles and types of films that win, rather than the actors. Perhaps, based on this guide, you’ll be able to spot the winners before they’re announced.

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