The 2019 Academy Awards—a perpetually-shifting clusterfuck—are going to be a complete disaster. That much is certain.
In the wake of the whole Kevin Hart fiasco, it will be the first host-less Oscars since ’89, or the year Rob Lowe danced and “sang” with Snow White, and producers have been retooling the ceremony up to its Feb. 24 airdate in order to remedy its ratings slide, with last year’s 26.6 million viewers representing its lowest TV audience in 44 years (it was even bested by an episode of This Is Us).
Maybe it’s time the Oscars moved to Netflix? Who knows.
But for all the fretting over ratings, an Academy Award nomination does still matter—particularly for actors, with that little gold statuette opening doors and ensuring paydays for its bearer. And for most actors, it takes a long time to reach this professional summit, which means plenty of trial and error as they hone their craft.
So, for the ninth consecutive year, The Daily Beast presents Oscar nominees’ most embarrassing roles—a reminder that for many of our best and brightest stars, success doesn’t happen overnight.
LADY GAGA: Herself, 2013 American Music Awards
Before earning a well deserved Oscar nod for her rousing turn as Ally in A Star is Born, Lady Gaga was, of course, a chart-topping pop icon—albeit one with some highly questionable professional associations. The nadir, as it were, came during the 2013 American Music Awards, where Gaga performed her hit single “Do What U Want” with the accused sexual predator R. Kelly—with Gaga appearing as a secretary (in a nod to Monica Lewinsky) gyrating on top of the president (R. Kelly) on his Oval Office desk. Gaga apologized for the song and pulled it from iTunes last month (albeit over five years later, after she already made millions off it) in the wake of Surviving R. Kelly, though she has never addressed the sexual misconduct claims against the director of its rapey, never-aired music video, her good pal Terry Richardson.
BRADLEY COOPER: Aidan Stone, Nip/Tuck
In this writer’s opinion, Bradley Cooper deserves to win the Best Actor Oscar for his convincing transformation into A Star is Born’s troubled country music star Jackson Maine (he even performed all the songs live in the film). But for years, Cooper struggled to gain a foothold in the industry, hosting the travel show Globe Trekker and appearing in bit parts on a number of TV shows—including as Aidan Stone, a vainglorious soap opera actor who injures himself trying to suck his own baby dick, in the FX series Nip/Tuck. “I just wanted to just give it little baby kisses,” Stone explains.
ADAM DRIVER: Jason Roberts, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (“Theatre Tricks”)
Adam Driver is one of the most dependably-good actors around, with impressive turns in the HBO series Girls and films like Inside Llewyn Davis, While We’re Young, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Paterson, and BlacKkKlansman, receiving his first Oscar nomination for the latter (he should really have several by now). Like most up-and-coming New York-based actors, he appeared on an episode of Law & Order: SVU—in Season 13, as a pervy stalker/electronics expert who’d installed cameras in a sexual-assault victim’s apartment (she was attacked in front of dozens of eyewitnesses during Sleep No More-esque interactive theater performance, because SVU) so he could watch her shower, among other things.
AMY ADAMS: Kate, Serving Sara
Amy Adams is one of our finest actresses, and earned her sixth Oscar nomination for her impressive turn as Lynne Cheney in the otherwise messy Vice. For what it’s worth, she should probably have a couple Academy Awards by now—for Junebug and The Master—but alas, I digress. Prior to hitting the A-list, Adams, like so many actresses before her, fell victim to Hollywood’s sexist aughts practice of casting attractive ingénues as vacuous bimbos. And in Serving Sara, she plays the gold-digging mistress of a rich Texas rancher whose special gift is… wiggling her boobs.
CHRISTIAN BALE: Walter Wade Jr., Shaft
Christian Bale’s been an impressive actor since his childhood days (see: Empire of the Sun). Few actors are as feverishly dedicated to their craft, with the Welshman known for his dramatic weight fluctuations for roles—like losing 60 pounds for The Machinist, or gaining over 40 pounds to portray former VP Dick Cheney in Vice. And it’s not that he’s necessarily bad as the racist villain of Shaft, who bludgeons a Black man to death outside a restaurant for the crime of publicly calling out his racism, but that he is playing a character who is definitely a variation on Donald Trump Jr., seeing as Bale’s Walter Wade Jr. is the dimwitted son of a New York real estate baron, and the scenes between father and son are shot in Trump Tower.
EMMA STONE: Allison Ng, Aloha
“I’m sorry!” Yes, Emma Stone was heard shouting those words when, during this year’s Golden Globes opening monologue, co-host Sandra Oh poked fun at the actress for playing a part-Asian character in Cameron Crowe’s disasterpiece Aloha. Due to backlash over a very white actress’ casting as a part-Asian fighter pilot (one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter Hawaiian) in an industry where its terribly difficult for actual Asian actors to find work, and the overall whiteness of the Hawaii-set film, it wasn’t screened for critics and distributor Sony canceled press opportunities. But hey, Emma Stone’s apologized profusely for the misstep and seems like a good egg. Lesson learned.
RAMI MALEK: Marcos Al-Zacar, 24
In the post-9/11 years, Hollywood hit audiences with a barrage of racist depictions of Arabs (as terrorists). And as a young, struggling actor of Egyptian descent, it couldn’t have been easy for Rami Malek to avoid this sort of typecasting, so the onus is more on the industry at large. Still, the Fox television series 24 was one of the most egregious examples of Hollywood post-9/11 hysteria, with its torture-glorifying American protagonist and one-dimensional Arab-American terrorists—like Malek’s Marcos Al-Zacar, who was radicalized following his father’s racially-motivated arrest and subsequent suicide. Al-Zacar is ultimately forced to blow himself up. Thankfully, Malek has come a long way since then, thanks in large part to his mesmerizing, award-winning turn as hacker Elliot Alderson on Mr. Robot.