When George Clooney received his eighth Oscar nomination as a producer of Argo – he shared producing credits on the Best Picture nominee with Ben Affleck and Grant Heslov — he marched into the Academy Award record books in a very unique way. It was the sixth different category in which he was nominated, an unprecedented feat for the 24 categories currently handed out each year. It’s also a nearly-unprecedented feat in all 85 years of the Oscars — but that’s with an asterisk and we’ll get to that.
Clooney knocked off three of those categories in 2005, the first year he was nominated for anything, with Directing and Original Screenplay (with Heslov) nominations for Good Night And Good Luck and winning Best Supporting Actor for Syriana. Then there were those Best Actor nominations he seems to get every other year: Michael Clayton (2007), Up In The Air (2009) and The Descendants (2011). That’s four different categories, to which he added a fifth in 2011, when he also was nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay race for The Ides Of March (with Heslov and Beau Willimon). This feat with five ties him with Warren Beatty, Stanley Kubrick, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen and Kenneth Branagh — however, only Clooney’s and Beatty’s noms all came in Oscar’s marquee top eight races (Picture, Writing, Acting, Directing). For the record, in addition to their writing, producing, directing and/or acting nods, Kubrick won in Special Effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); Branagh was nominated for a Live Action Short, Swan Song (1992); and the Coens have shared Film Editing nominations twice under their pseudonym Roderick Jaynes.
With Best Picture frontrunner Argo, the versatile Clooney has now passed them all in this particular — and particularly impressive — Oscar statistic. Although some could say acting, directing, writing and picture are just four categories, I would argue they are very specific disciplines which is why the Academy separates out lead and supporting acting as well as Adapted and Original Screenplays. I would also point out Beatty’s feat of earning Picture, Actor, Directing and Screenplay nominations in the same year — not once but twice (Heaven Can Wait, Reds) — is a Herculean feat in itself. He won the Directing Oscar for Reds as well as the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award and has 14 nominations in all, but none of them were in the Supporting Actor category and that’s where Clooney topped him. In fact, Beatty has yet to play a supporting role in any film.
So in terms of sheer numbers of categories nominated, is George Clooney now the King of the Oscars?
Well, Walt Disney is the only other person to be named in six categories (most in Shorts), but as head of the studio he just basically stuck his name on a majority of them, something that wouldn’t make him a nominee now. Disney racked up 59 nominations and 22 wins (not counting his four Honorary Awards including the Thalberg) in Best Picture (just once for Mary Poppins), Documentary Short, Documentary Feature, Cartoon Short, Two-Reel Short and Live Action Short. Of course he didn’t actually personally really produce the majority of those, so it would be difficult to compare this unique achievement to Clooney’s.
So in the Academy record books it is now Clooney and Disney*. But if George wants this record all to himself with no question whatsoever ,he might consider taking on one more job like Editing, Costume Design, Songwriting or maybe even Sound Mixing to get that seventh category on his Oscar resume.