An Opinionated Look at Bald Movie Actors and the Oscars




Movie fans may not be able to agree on whether the annual Oscar awards have any artistic validity, but the Oscars are still a subject of great interest to the general public. Naturally, there have been a number of actors with hair loss who have been nominated for the movie industry’s top honor. Following, in no particular order, is a look at three whose performances received the Oscar for Best Actor, followed by three whose performances deserved but did not receive the same.

Three Bald Best Actor Oscar Winners

Ben Kingsley, Gandhi, 1982
It’s a towering performance in an epic film. In addition to winning the Oscar, it won a Golden Globe and citations from the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the London Film Critics Circle. Time wrote that “Kingsley is nothing short of astonishing,” and Newsweek crowed that he “gives what is possibly the most astonishing biographical performance in screen history.” It’s an absolutely marvelous performance by one of the screen’s most skillful actors. And yet, as impressive as it is, the passage of time makes one think that perhaps the real best performance that year came not from Kingsley, as good as he is, but from the also-nominated Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie.

Yul Brynner, The King and I, 1956
Brynner holds a special place in bald cinema history as the man who firmly and forever established that a hairless leading man could be every bit as sexy and powerful as a hirsute one. In this, the film version of his spectacular stage success, Brynner lights up the screen with a commanding and enthralling performance that exudes as much sexuality and masked vulnerability as it does masculinity. Seen nowadays, the film is a bit “stagey,” and Brynner’s performance seems somewhat mannered; but even so, there’s an undeniable strength to it that is impossible to resist.

Robert Duvall, Tender Mercies, 1983
Brynner’s performance bowls you over with its strength; Duvall’s clutches at you with a gentleness that tries to hide an overwhelming sorrow and melancholy that lie underneath. Although you are hooked from the moment Duvall appears onscreen, his incredibly nuanced and subtle performance folds you slowly and carefully into his world without your even being aware of it. Truly a mesmerizing and captivating feat by one of the screen’s deftest actors.

Three Bald Actors Who Should Have Won Oscars

Bob Hoskins, Mona Lisa, 1986
The Academy decided that the Best Actor of 1986 was Paul Newman, a terrific actor indeed, for The Color of Money, which contained a Newman performance that was certainly good … but not terrific. How much more deserving was balding character actor Hoskins in a raw and intense performance as a small-time hood reduced to being the driver for a high-class hooker — for whom he disastrously develops a liking? Certainly, the New York Film Critics Circle, National Society of Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, British Academy of Film and Television Arts and Cannes Film Festival, among others, thought so, choosing to anoint Hoskins for his sensational work.

Nigel Hawthorne, The Madness of King George, 1994
In 1994, the Oscar for Best Actor went to Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump. Really? Nothing against Hanks, who is a fine actor, but his work in that film was obvious and basically superficial. On the other hand, Hawthorne, as the king who lost America and may have been losing his marbles, was nothing short of stupendous. Rolling Stone felt that “the thrill of Hawthorne’s astounding performance is not something you want to miss,” while The New York Times applauded his “stunningly mercurial display of wit, pathos and fiery emotion” and The Washington Post found him “poetic — and hysterical.” Ah, well, it seems that, like life, awards for acting are like a box of chocolates; you never know what …

Ed Harris, Pollock, 2000
Making Pollock was a personal act of passion for Harris, who directed as well as starred in this biopic of the famous abstract painter. That passion is evident in every frame of Harris’ enthralling performance. The intensity is overwhelming and at times unnerving; Harris doesn’t just get under the character’s skin — he strips his own away and grafts Pollock’s on instead. It’s a staggering performance — and rather more deserving of the Oscar than Russell Crowe’s entertaining but grandstanding turn in Gladiator, which was the actual winner.

Naturally, all of the above are matters of opinion. What do you think? What bald actors have been justifiably cheered? Which has been robbed? Which has been simply ignored?