In 1971, at the 43rd Academy Awards ceremony, George C. Scott, the star of Patton won one of the most prestigious honors of the acting world. Most people in show business would be absolutely overjoyed to even be nominated for Best Actor – not to mention actually win the esteemed honor.
But not Scott, while the hoity-toity ceremony was taking place in LA, he was sound asleep at his quaint farmhouse in upstate New York thousands of miles away. He despised the Academy Awards and even went as far as calling them a ‘meat parade’. He hated how they pit actors and actresses against each other. He didn’t understand why a trophy was needed to recognize an actor for their work. It should stand on it’s own.
When he was nominated for Academy Awards previously, he had been relatively outspoken about his disdain for the whole thing. The Academy was thoroughly aware of his opinions when they nominated him for Patton. His performance in that film was just too powerful not to recognize. To not nominate him for that film – regardless of his views towards the ceremony – would have been absolutely insane.
Patton was the most applauded film of the year and Scott’s performance was clearly something to marvel at. Everybody already knew that he was going to win but Scott also made It crystal clear that he was going to turn his nose up to the honor – which he absolutely did, but hopefully after you watch this video you’ll have a better understanding as to why. Did Scott think of himself as too good for the Academy Awards or was there a deeper reason for his boycotting of the ceremony?
George C. Scott Had Previously Been Nominated For Performances
His work on Patton certainly wasn’t the first time that he had been recognized by Hollywood Award shows. He had previously received 2 nods for Best Supporting Actor – one for this part in Anatomy of a Murder, and the second for The Hustler
After receiving the nomination for his superb portrayl of Bert Gordon in The Hustler in 1961 he gave the public a little piece of his mind about how he felt about the Academy Awards. He told reporters that he couldn’t stand behind any competition that pit actors against each other.
From there he kept pumping out amazing work without the Academy recognizing him for it. Even though he would have definitely declined the honor, he should have still been nominated for his part in 1964s Dr. Strangelove.
Strangely, Scott actually thought his performance in that film was pretty weak. Stanley Kubrick reportedly had filmed an overblown, exaggerated rehearsal take that he used instead of the more moderate one that Scott preferred. Kubrick wanted the film to be more comedic but Scott didn’t see himself as much of a comedian.
But even though it wasn’t the version that he favored, his hillariously manic portrayal of General Buck Turgidson is one of the stand-out performances of the movie. Still, It wouldn’t be for another 6 years that Scott would receive another nomination for his work.
Patton Was Scott’s Quintessential Role
You can’t discuss George C. Scott without bringing up Patton. It was clearly his most defining role of this career.
In order to step into the role of General Patton, Scott had immersed himself in 13 biographies of the man. He had specially designed caps put on his teeth so he might look more like him and was extremely opinionated about how he thought the character should be played.
George C. Scott wanted to honor the man as he was. He wanted to portray him as close to reality as he could. It became his obsession. He wanted to show Patton as being well-rounded and balanced. He was initially apprehensive to film the monologue at the start of the film because he was fearful that it would over-shadow the rest.
He was only convinced to film the scene when he was misled by Director Franklin Schaffner to believe that the scene would be shown at the end of the film. In all reality, it’s this powerful monologue that may have helped him score his Academy Award nomination in the first place.
If you sit down and watch Patton, it’s absolutely clear that he is putting all of his heart and soul into the part. Ever so often, an actor puts so much of their self into a role that the audience and general public begin to think of their on-screen portrayal of the individual more than the real life person. Scott’s portrayal of General Patton is a very notable example of that phenomenon.
The Academy Was Obligated To Nominate Scott
It would have been impossible for anyone to ignore the performance that Scott gave in Patton. The Academy couldn’t have snubbed him even if they had wanted to. Scott played one of the greatest military figures of his era. Without General Patton, World War II might have panned out entirely differently.
To not recognize Scott for the role, would have been seen as a direct insult to General Patton himself. If the Academy hadn’t recognized his incredible performance as the great American military leader, it would have been seen as unpatriotic and disrespectful to all of those men and women who served and died for their country in that brutal war.
Not only was Patton one of the stand-out performances of 1970, but it was also quite possibly the best of Scott’s entire career. It’s universally recognized among critics that his portrayal of the military general is one of the finest of the century. You would be hard-pressed to try and find anyone that thinks otherwise. Even if you aren’t a fan of war films, it’s impossible to not recognize Scott’s work.
If you go and search for negative reviews of the film – which mind you is a hard task in itself – those hard-to-please critics will still have nothing but praise for the film’s lead role.
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Scott Asked The Academy To Rescind Their Nomination
When he received the news that he had received the Academy’s nod for Best Actor for the 1971 Award ceremony that’s when he made his infamous commented to the media about the Awards just being a long drawn-out’ meat parade’. He thought the whole thing to be hokey – just a stunt to keep viewers at the edge of their seats while the network raked in ad revenue.
He also questioned whether or not the Academy had been corrupted by outside entities and he despised what he saw as the barbaric pitting of performers against each other. He wanted nothing to do with it and asked the Academy to withdraw their nomination but of course, they refused to do so.
Since his passive display of hostility towards the Academy through the press didn’t result in them pulling the nomination, he decided to take a more direct approach. He sent them a telegram informing them that he wouldn’t be attending the event and even if he won the award he would refuse to accept it because of his uncompromising moral opinions. Yet again, the Academy disregarded his request and the nomination remained in place.
People Were Surprised When He Won
In years prior, there were some reasonable concerns pertaining to the credibility and legitimacy of the Academy Awards. Some viewed the event as just an opportunity for studios to basically buy actors and actresses an award and a little bit of recognition from their colleagues. Whether or not it was an actual contest and not just a formality had been called into question.
So the Academy used Scott’s nomination as an opportunity to prove that they weren’t as corrupt as he and others had alleged. If he won then it would prove that they weren’t just playing into the demands of publicists and studio big wigs.
So in a way, giving him the award because he genuinely deserved it – even though he didn’t even want it in the first place – helped reestablish public faith in the institution at a time that it had been waning.
Goldie Hawn opened up the envelope and revealed that George C Scott won the award for Best Actor, but he was 2,700 miles away and couldn’t care less about the honor. Rumor has it, he watched a hockey game on TV before calling it an early night that evening.
Frank McCarthy, Patton’s producer, ended up accepting the trophy for Scott. Even though he snubbed the Academy, that didn’t prevent them from nominating him once more in 1972 for The Hospital.
Eventually, Scott put his feelings aside and attended the awards. At the last minute, he bought a couple of plane tickets and made it just in time for the 1982 ceremony.
Interestingly, Scott wasn’t the first person to refuse to accept an Oscar. Dudley Nichols, who was the screenwriter for The Informer declined the award in 1936 because of a tiff that the Screenwriters’ Guild had with the Academy. He was a founding member of that guild so the dispute affected him on a personal level.
In 1973 Marlon Brando also declined the Best Actor Award for The Godfather. He sent Native American actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather to the ceremony in his place where she informed the audience that he was declining the award n protest of Hollywood’s portrayal of Native People in film and television.
Brando, who is often considered one of the greatest actors of all time, was a proud supporter of many causes. He used his fame as a way of advancing these causes and for years he had aligned himself with the American Indian Movement (Aim). Declining the award gave him the opportunity to publish a scathing critique of Hollywood’s depictions of Native Americans in the New York Times – a portion of which was read by Littlefeather at the awards ceremony.
Well, that wraps up another facts-tastic video.
We have to give credit to George C. Scott for taking a stand and holding true to it. To turn down such a prestigious award is actually a pretty badass move. Not many would do such a thing.
What do you think about Scott’s Oscar refusal? Would you have done the same or would you have gladly accepted the award?
Let us know what you think down below in the comment’s section
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