Why an Oscar win for 'West Side Story' star Ariana DeBose could be an exceptionally big deal

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Ariana DeBose could soon find herself a part of a very elite club.

DeBose notched a best supporting actress Academy Award nomination Tuesday morning for her role as Anita in “West Side Story.” If she wins, she’ll join Rita Moreno for winning an Oscar for playing the same role. Moreno won best supporting actress in 1962 for the part.

Actors winning an Oscar for playing the same role in different films is rare, but it does happen.

Robert De Niro (left) and Marlon Brando (right) are a pair of acting legends who won an Oscar for playing Vito Corleone in different
Robert De Niro (left) and Marlon Brando (right) are a pair of acting legends who won an Oscar for playing Vito Corleone in different

Marlon Brando won best actor for playing Vito Corleone in 1972’s “The Godfather,” while Robert De Niro won best supporting actor two years later for portraying him in “The Godfather: Part II.”

Heath Ledger posthumously won best supporting actor in 2009 for playing the Joker in "The Dark Knight."' In 2020, Joaquin Phoenix was honored for playing the part by winning best actor for “Joker.”

Several actors have earned nominations for playing the same character. John Wayne and Jeff Bridges each scored a nod for their portrayals of Rooster Cogburn in different versions of “True Grit.” Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh garnered Oscar nominations for playing King Henry V in different “Henry V” films. Anthony Hopkins received a nomination for playing Richard Nixon in “Nixon,” while Frank Langella did the same for “Frost/Nixon.”

Alamy / Getty Images
Alamy / Getty Images

Judi Dench (“Shakespeare in Love”) and Cate Blanchett (“Elizabeth”) were each nominated in 1999 for playing Queen Elizabeth I, a role that would earn Blanchett another nod for her work in the sequel, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age.”

Dench was also one-half of a duo nominated for playing the same role in the same movie. Dench was up for best actress for her portrayal of writer Iris Murdoch in the 2001 movie “Iris,” while Kate Winslet was nominated for best supporting actress for playing a younger version of Murdoch.

Winslet actually pulled off that nomination quirk a first time with the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic.” She was nominated for best actress for playing Rose and Gloria Stuart was in the best supporting actress field for playing an older version of the character.

Will DeBose make history by matching Moreno’s win? We’ll find out when the Oscars air live March 27 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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