Jake Gyllenhaal's new film Southpaw premieres this weekend, and the early indication is that the movie features a powerhouse performance from Gyllenhaal. He's certainly getting a lot of buzz for the role, but could Jake Gyllenhaal win an Oscar for Southpaw ? The movie certainly provides enough material; in the film, the actor portrays Billy "The Great" Hope (pretty sure he stole that nickname from Alexander), a boxer who retires at the top of his game only to see his wife murdered and his young daughter taken away, prompting a downward spiral. He eventually is faced with the prospect of returning to the vicious sport since it's the only way he can regain what he's lost. In other words, it's all the stuff the Oscars love.
One aspect about Gyllenhaal's performance that has people talking is his ridiculous body transformation. Oscar has a history of rewarding actors who take extreme measures when inhabiting a role, and Gyllenhaal's insanely ripped bod certainly qualifies as extreme. Gyllenhaal has one Oscar nom under his belt already for 2005's Brokeback Mountain, but he lost out in the Best Supporting Actor category to George Clooney. Other recent efforts like 2011's Love and Other Drugs and last year's Nightcrawler have earned Gyllenhaal Golden Globe nominations, but so far Oscar hasn't come calling. Southpaw could reverse that trend, however, because if there's one thing the Academy loves, it's boxing movies.
It seems like every boxing movie that's ever been released gets at least some attention from the Oscars, and a few of them have ended up bringing home a statue or two. Here's a rundown of 11 boxing movies that have managed to get in the ring with Oscar.
1. Somebody Up There Likes Me
This 1956 film only garnered nominations for a few technical awards and won none, but it does feature a young Paul Newman before he became the King of Cool (Ranch Salad Dressing). Plus, as you can see by the trailer, the film is now available on video cassette!
2. The Hurricane
Denzel Washington picked up this 1999 film's only nomination at the Oscars, but it was a good one. Washington was up for Best Actor for his role as real life boxer Rubin Carter, who was wrongly convicted of a triple homicide and spent 20 years in prison. Washington didn't win the award, but his performance remains as powerful as ever.
3. Cinderella Man
Somewhat surprisingly, this 2005 film that was directed by Ron Howard and starred Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger saw its only major Oscar nomination go to Paul Giamatti for Best Supporting Actor. Giamatti lost, and it's still the only Oscar nom he's ever received.
4. The Great White Hope
This film hasn't aged as well as the others on this list, and it currently only holds a 43 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but in 1970 it earned Best Acting Oscar nominations for both James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander. And check out that young, buff Jones! What a throwback.
Will Smith earned his first-ever Oscar nomination when he embodied Muhammed Ali in this 2001 film. Jon Voight also grabbed a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as sportscaster Howard Cosell. Although both men gave some impressive impersonations of a couple of famous sports figures, it wasn't enough to earn either of them a victory.
6. When We Were Kings
Speaking of Ali, this 2006 documentary about the greatest fighter of all time won the Oscar for Best Documentary, showing that the Academy loves boxing movies even when they don't have any actors at all.
7. The Champ
I hope you're reading this on a Thursday because this is a serious #TBT. This movie is from 1931, and it won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor (Wallace Beery), and the now defunct Best Story. It was remade in 1979, and while the new version didn't get nearly as much love from the Academy, some still consider it the saddest movie of all time. Take that, Pixar!
8. The Fighter
Christian Bale underwent one of his trademark transformations (pay attention, Gyllenhaal) on his way to winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in this 2010 Mark Wahlberg-starrer. Melissa Leo won for Best Supporting Actress, and the film also garnered several other noms, including Best Picture, Best Director, and a second Best Supporting Actress nom for Amy Adams. No love for Marky Mark, though.
9. Million Dollar Baby
This heartbreaking movie from 2004 was up for seven Oscars and took home four: Best Director for Clint Eastwood, Best Actress for Hilary Swank, Best Supporting Actor for Morgan Freeman, and the big one, Best Picture. It also definitely made more than a million dollars, baby.
10. Raging Bull
Martin Scorcese + Robert De Niro = cinematic gold, and this is considered by most to be their best effort. The black and white 1980 film scooped up eight Oscar noms, including Best Picture, but surprisingly only took home two. De Niro won for Best Actor, and it also garnered the award for Film Editing.
The Rocky series lost some of its momentum in its later years (though I'm still partial to Rocky IV myself), so people often forget that the first Rocky was absolutely amazing. How amazing? Try 10 Oscar nominations, with even Sylvester Stallone getting a nod for Best Actor. The film won for Best Director, Film Editing, and, of course, Best Picture. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum!
There's a serious pattern here, and so it's totally possible that Southpaw might get honored come 2016. Finding out if Gyllenhaal will get a nod of his own is still a long while away, but judging from history, he might just be a real contender.
Image: The Weinstein Company