Oprah Matches Up Oscar Winners for ABC
She's been one herself on occasion, and for all those who have won Oscars, it's still a relatively select group. Winfrey showcases six members by pairing them off in the first "Oprah Winfrey Oscar Special" Thursday, Feb. 22, on ABC.
The show airs three nights before the 79th Annual Academy Awards, which will be preceded by Barbara Walters' traditional ABC interview special. Rather than asking the questions herself, Winfrey is making Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Jamie Foxx the "interrogators."
Each star got to choose a fellow Oscar-winner to talk with. Roberts picked George Clooney, her leading man in "Ocean's Eleven" and "Ocean's Twelve"; Kidman chose fellow Australia export Russell Crowe; and Foxx selected screen icon Sidney Poitier.
Following is the Academy Award history of each of the performers Winfrey will spotlight.
George Clooney had his first date with Oscar just last year, and in a big way. He was in the running for directing and co-writing the Edward R. Murrow vs. Sen. Joseph McCarthy docudrama "Good Night, and Good Luck." He won neither of those honors, but he didn't go home empty-handed, being named best supporting actor for playing a burned-out CIA operative in "Syriana."
Russell Crowe scored his first Oscar bid as tobacco-industry whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand in "The Insider" (1999), but it took his getting buff and brawny to walk off with the best actor award the following year for "Gladiator." He's been back since, making it three nominations over three years with his portrayal of troubled mathematician John Nash in the best picture winner for 2001, "A Beautiful Mind."
Jamie Foxx was all but certain to capture Oscar gold for his performance as music legend Ray Charles in the 2004 biography "Ray." He actually could have made it to the podium twice that night, also having been nominated for best supporting actor as the captive cabbie in "Collateral."
Nicole Kidman is another talent whose Oscar bids thus far have come in consecutive years. First up for best actress for her 2001 musical turn in "Moulin Rouge!" she heard her name called 12 months later as writer Virginia Woolf in "The Hours."
With his 1964 win as the optimistic handyman in the previous year's "Lilies of the Field," Sidney Poitier made Oscar history as the first black performer named best actor. It was Poitier's second time in that category, since he was nominated previously as a convict on the run in "The Defiant Ones" (1958); it wouldn't be his last Oscar, however, since he also received a career-commemorating honorary award in 2002.
Julia Roberts vaulted from supporting player to lead actress in the space of a year, landing her first nomination as part of the principally female ensemble of "Steel Magnolias" (1989), then coming back as the hooker with the heart of Richard Gere in "Pretty Woman" (1990). Another decade would pass before Roberts' next nomination, and eventual win, as the self-styled crusader against pollution in the true story "Erin Brockovich" (2000).
So, it's six Oscar winners and Oprah: not a bad way for Winfrey to stake her claim to the world of Academy Award specials, and also not a bad way for viewers to rev up for Oscar night itself.