During the first lines of Annie Hall, Alvy Singer explains his failed relationships with women through an old joke he attributes to Groucho Marx and Freud: "I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member." When the movie took home four Oscars the following year, Woody Allen was nowhere in sight on the dais. Although he has more nominations than any writer in history (fourteen — or twenty-three when you include best director and actor nods), not once has Allen attended the ceremony when he’s up for an award. Is it the old joke about not wanting to be a member of any club that would have him?
If so, he’s not the only one. Every year we hear a lot about who got snubbed by the Academy for a nomination, but what about the reverse? Since the 1930s, some of Hollywood’s brightest stars didn’t bother to R.S.V.P. when the Academy came calling. Here’s a list of nominees and winners who snubbed the Oscars.
1. Dudley Nichols
Nichols was a prominent screenwriter beginning in the 1930s. In a career that spanned over 35 years, his credits included movies like Bringing Up Baby, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and the movie that made John Wayne a star: Stagecoach. He won an Oscar for The Informer (1935), a script he adapted from a book about the Irish War of Independence. He became the first winner to decline the award, citing an ongoing writer’s strike. Perhaps as a reward for his loyalty, he was elected president of the writer’s guild a few years later.
2. Katharine Hepburn
Hollywood’s greatest leading lady was nominated for twelve Oscars and won four for leading roles--a record. She never attended the ceremony when she was nominated, although she proudly displayed her statues for visitors at her home in Connecticut. She broke her tradition of non-attendance in 1974 to present producer Lawrence Weingarten a Thalberg Award, where she had this to say: “I’m very happy that I didn’t hear anyone call out ‘it’s about time.’ I am living proof that a person can wait forty-one years to be unselfish.” Watch the video here.
3. George C. Scott
Is it possible to refuse even a nomination for an Oscar? Scott, most remembered for his roles as Patton and the looney General Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove, did just that when he was first nominated for The Hustler. He didn’t win that time, but he did for Patton in 1970. Scott literally telegraphed the Academy his intention to refuse the award before the ceremony, so when presenter Goldie Hawn ripped open the envelope and cried, “Oh my God! The winner is George C. Scott,” no one was surprised to learn he was home at his farm in New York. The former Marine didn’t mince words about the Oscars: "The ceremonies are a two-hour meat parade, a public display with contrived suspense for economic reasons." Watch the film’s producer accept the award for him here.
4. Marlon Brando
A couple years after Scott skipped the Oscars, Brando one-upped him by sending an Apache named Sacheen Littlefeather to refuse the Oscar he won for The Godfather. Littlefeather was booed and catcalled when she announced she was sent to protest Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans. Clint Eastwood wondered aloud a few moments later whether he ought not be presenting the Best Picture award because of all the slain cowboys in John Ford movies before him. It was later reported that Littlefeather wasn’t a Native American at all, and that she was in fact a Mexican actress named Maria Cruz. She explains her ancestry on her website. Watch the video of her speech here.
5. Terrence Malick
Writer/director Malick has never won an Oscar, but The Thin Red Line was nominated for seven of them in 1999. Despite an abundance of possibility, Malick skipped the ceremonies, in part because he was in the middle of a falling out with several of the film’s producers. In the end it was just as well--his World War II epic didn't win any of the awards it was nominated for. This year, Malick is nominated for best director for The Tree of Life.
6. Woody Allen
Although he’s never shown up on the night of his own nominations, Allen has made one appearance on the Oscar stage. In 2002, less than six months after the September 11th attacks, Allen appeared to introduce a montage of films that had been made in New York, telling the audience that the Big Apple was still a wonderful place to make movies. Watch his entertaining and sincere stand-up routine:
About the awards themselves, Allen had this to say: "I have no regard for that kind of ceremony. I just don't think they know what they're doing. When you see who wins those things -- or who doesn't win them -- you can see how meaningless this Oscar thing is."
7. Jean-Luc Godard
In late 2010 the Academy announced they would award the titan of French New Wave an honorary Oscar. They quickly discovered he was not an easy man to get in touch with. Despite attempts to contact him via “telephone, by fax, by emails to various friends and associates,” and “FedEx,” they never received a reply from Godard, who was just shy of eighty years old then. According to some sources, Godard doesn’t just have a contentious history with Hollywood--he also avoids flying because he can’t smoke on planes. Adding to the controversy was the suggestion in some quarters that Godard didn’t deserve the award because of perceived anti-Semitism. Although Godard never gave a reason for his non-attendance, his long-time partner had this to say: “Jean-Luc won’t go to America, he’s getting old for that kind of thing. Would you go all that way just for a bit of metal?”
The anonymous British street artist was nominated last year for best documentary feature with Exit Through the Gift Shop, his tongue-in-cheek meditation on the value of art in society. Banksy agreed to attend the ceremony, but only if he was allowed to do so without revealing his identity. When the Academy refused to accommodate his request he didn’t show. A few days before Oscar night, the above Mr. Brainwash mural popped up in L.A., which seemed to suggest an equivalency between Hollywood and the Galactic Empire. Unfortunately for the history of Oscar controversies, the golden statue went to Inside Job instead.