Oscar Calling

UPDATED 2/26/2012

Premio Oscar MexicoA Better Life actor Demián Bichir and his nod in the 84th annual Academy Awards cements Oscars’ limited but meaningful love affair with Mexico.

In 1954 actress Katy Jurado became the first paisana to be nominated for a golden man for her supporting role in Broken Lance opposite Spencer Tracy and Robert Wagner, and it wasn’t till 2002 with her incarnation of troubled surrealist painter Frida Kahlo that Salma Hayek joined Oscars’ acting echelon. Adriana Barraza, nominated for her role in 2006’s Babel completes the scarce trifecta.

In the category of best actor, the only two names that figure are American-born Latino Edward James Olmos, who was nominated for his portrayal of high school math teacher Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver in 1988, and Chihuahua native Anthony Quinn, who was nominated four times and took the statuette home on two occassions—in 1952 for his starring role in Viva Zapata! and two years later for his role as Paul Gauguin in the Van Gogh biopic Lust for Life.

And though he never received a nomination, Mexican actor Emilio “El Indio” Fernández with his chiseled good looks served as the trademark statue’s model thanks to his friendship with Golden Era actress Dolores del Río, who at that time was married to MGM Art Director (and one of the original Academy members) Cedric Gibbons.

Other behind the scenes standouts include sound technician Gonzalo Gavira who was part of the team that won for Best Sound for their work on 1973’s  The Exorcist—which reportedly had remained canned for eight months due to director William Friedkin not finding an adequate person to lay down the sound effects.

In an interview before his passing in 2005 at age 79, he recalled coming up with the noise used for Linda Blair’s 360° neck twisting by fiddling his fingers through a comb, and cracking chicharrones (pork rinds) to simulate the sound of shattering glass.   

Nods for Mexican talent in fields like Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Best Original and Adapted Screenplay followed, as well as a handful of win-less nods in the Best Foreign Film grouping. 

Nominated for his directorial work in Biutiful last year, Alejandro González Iñárritu addressed the importance of Mexico bringing home a statuette to The New York Times:

Mexico is going through difficult times right now, so yes, it’s become something important. There’s extreme violence and a lot of pain, as never before, so there’s a need for good news that can bring hope or happiness. Obviously the nomination of “Biutiful” has been a motive for celebration. But also, this is the eighth Mexican film nominated for the foreign-language Oscar, and no Mexican film has ever won, so that too has become a source of distress.

We’re rooting for you, Demián; though no word yet if Heidi, the German cross-eyed opossum has received her A Better Life screener yet.

For a full list of Mexican’s nominated for Oscars, click here.

“Mexican” Oscar image by Jonathan Godoy.

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