March’s Academy Awards telecast will mark the 95th Oscars ceremony. Yet, like every year, the “firsts” were bountiful from Tuesday’s nominations — including a whopping 16 of the 20 acting nominees being first-timers.
But first let’s start with some history.
Everything Everywhere All At Once star Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian woman ever to be nominated for Best Actress. (There is some complexity to that designation, however: Merle Oberon, a nominee in 1936 for The Dark Angelreportedly hid her Asian ancestry and identified as white, thus why some outlets are listing Yeoh as the first nominee “who identifies as Asian”). And Yeoh stands a strong chance at winning an Oscar on her first nomination: She and Tár’s Cate Blanchett are considered neck-and-neck frontrunners in the category, which also includes Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans), Ana de Armas (Blonde) and surprise nominee Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie).
Also noteworthy: The nominations of Yeoh, her Everything Everywhere co-stars Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu, and Hong Chau (The Whale) mark the highest number of Asian actors ever recognized in a single year at four. Living Screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro, meanwhile, became the first Asian person ever nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.
Angela Bassett’s swan song as Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever earned her a Best Supporting Actress nod, becoming the first Marvel Cinematic Universe actor ever nominated for an Oscar. The only other two actors ever previously nominated for superhero movies, Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) and Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), both in DC properties for playing the same character, won the Oscar. Bassett stands a great shot, too. She opens as the early heavy favorite against Chau, Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin), Jamie Lee Curtis and Hsu.
Here’s a feat that probably won’t be oft-matched: Catherine Martin (Elvis) became the first person to score nominations for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Best picture. (Martin, along with husband and Elvis director/co-writer Baz Luhrmann, are producers on the film.)
On the international front: While the Bollywood social media sensation RRR missed out on Best Picture, its nod for Best Original Song (early frontrunner “Naatu Naatu”) marked the first time an entry in the category has come from India. The Quiet Girl became Ireland’s first-ever Best International Film nominee.
As previously mentioned, 16 of the 20 acting nominees – and an astounding 80 percent – are first-timers, including some names that might surprise you (ahem, Jamie Lee Curtis and Colin Farrell), and including, remarkably, every single nom in the Best Actor race. They are:
BEST ACTRESS: Ana de Armas (Blonde), Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie), Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere)
BEST ACTOR: Austin Butler (Elvis), Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Brendan Fraser (The Whale), Paul Mescal (Aftersun), Bill Nighy (Living)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Hong Chau (The Whale), Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere), Stephane Hsu (Everything Everywhere), Kerry Condon (Banshees)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Brendan Gleeson (Banshees), Brian Tyree Henry (Causeway), Barry Keoghan (Banshees), Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere)
The four actors to return: Cate Blanchett (now an eight-time nominee who won for The Aviator and Blue Jasmine), Michelle Williams (now a five-time nominee whose last nod came in 2017 for Manchester by the Sea), Angela Bassett (now a two-time nominee whose previous nod came in 1994 for What’s Love Got To Do With It?) and Judd Hirsch (now a two-time nominee whose previous nod came in 1981 for Ordinary People). At 42 years, Hirsch’s nomination broke Henry Ford’s record for the longest gap between acting nods (Ford was at 41 years with noms in 1940 and 1981).
Beyond the acting races, there were a couple of other high-profile names to make the Oscars ballot for the first time in their lives.
Jerry Bruckheimer, the 79-year-old super-producer behind box office hits like Beverly Hills Cop, The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Pirates of the Caribbean, Bad Boys and National Treasure, became a first-time nominee for producing Top Gun: Maverick. He shares the nomination with star Tom Cruise and other fellow producers Christopher McQuarrie and David Ellison.
R&B superstar Rihanna also became a first-time nominee in Best Original Song for her performance of the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever single “Lift Me Up.” She shares the nomination with writer-director Ryan Coogler, composer Ludwig Göransson and co-performer Tems, who also became the first Nigerian ever nominated for an Oscar.
According to Variety, Rihanna is already set to perform “Lift Me Up” at the March 12 ceremony, exactly one month after her Feb. 12 Super Bowl halftime shows. Not a bad stretch.