Being nominated for an Academy Award is the pinnacle of recognition and success as an actor or actress. Looking at the winners and nominations over the years gives you some idea of just how difficult it is to win one of these coveted statues. And they aren’t just available in an acting capacity – writers, directors, producers, and even musicians can find themselves nominated.
As a living, breathing artist, it is incredibly difficult to scoop a nomination for an Oscar. But, it is even more difficult to get a nomination if you are a nonexistent person! How is this possible, you might ask? Well, many artists in the film industry use pseudonyms when working on projects, and these are six people who won Oscars as nonexistent people.
Dalton Trumbo, one of the finest and most respected Hollywood screenwriters of all time, was blacklisted during the McCarthy-era in America. However, he continued to pen screenplays under the pseudonym Robert Rich, and even managed to scoop up two Academy Award nominations for his work. He went on to win an Oscar using his pseudonym for the 1956 movie The Brave One – eventually receiving the award in 1975.
This one is slightly different, because, although Boulle does exist, he didn’t actually pen the movie for which he scooped his Oscar. The film in question was the war epic The Bridge on the River Kwai, for which he wrote the novel that the movie was based on. The author didn’t speak any English, but his name was used for screenplay credit, as the real writers of the movie were on the blacklist at the time. The two writers, Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson, received posthumous Oscars in 1985.
Nathan E. Douglas
Nedrick Young, one of the most inventive screenwriters in Hollywood, penned The Defiant Ones, a Sidney Poitier classic 1958 crime film exploring race and friendship. But, as Young had been blacklisted in Hollywood, he had to come up with the pseudonym Nathan E. Douglas as cover. Young eventually got his award credit in 1993, 23 years after his death.
Different kettle of fish altogether here, because P.H. Vazak was actually a Hungarian sheepdog! The real writer of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes was none other than screenwriting powerhouse Robert Towne. The Chinatown writer was apparently unhappy with some of the rewrites and didn’t want to be credited. Luckily the film didn’t win the Oscar, so there was no need for any canine-based acceptance speeches!
Those familiar with the work of the Coen Brothers might recognize the name Roderick Jaynes. Elderly Brit Jaynes is actually the editor of all the Coen Brothers movies and was Oscar-nominated for Fargo and No Country For Old Men. Not bad for a fictional dude, right?! In fact, Jaynes is a pseudonym the Coen’s created themselves, just for the fun of it!
We’re going to go all meta here. Charlie Kaufman began writing an adaptation of the novel The Orchid Thief in the late 1990s – the movie was called Adaptation. After suffering from severe writer’s block, Kaufman created himself a brother named Donald and inserted Donald, himself, and the writer’s block angle into the screenplay. Both Charlie and Donald are credited as co-writers of the movie, even though Donald doesn’t exist.
These are just some of the stunning fictional people who have been nominated for Oscars. We bet you never knew how much blacklisting was going on in Hollywood at the time. And, actually, we really like the cases where writers simply created a pseudonym for the fun of it.