30 Oscar Winners Who Didn't Attend the Ceremony

by IMDb-Contributing-Writers | last updated - 17 Feb 2016

Not every actor or director dreams of making an Oscars acceptance speech. Several winners including Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, and Katharine Hepburn had other things they chose to do on Oscar night. Whether because of politics, work or illness, these 30 stars skipped their big night. — Sharon Knolle

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3631-9 Katharine Hepburn in

Katharine Hepburn's four Oscars are still a record for any actor, but she was never there to accept any of them. The actress, who was nominated 12 times in all, once said, "I can't say I believe in prizes. I was a whiz in the three-legged race – that's something you can win."

Marlon Brando and Salvatore Corsitto in The Godfather (1972)

Although Marlon Brando accepted his Best Actor Oscar in person for 1955's On the Waterfront, in 1973, when he won Best Actor for The Godfather, he skipped the big show. Instead, a woman named Sacheen Littlefeather took the stage to refuse the award on his behalf in the name of Native American rights.


Husband Richard Burton, who was also nominated for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, reportedly was afraid of losing and talked Elizabeth Taylor into skipping the 1967 ceremony. Her failure to show (or even issue a statement of thanks) for her second Best Actress win did her no favors in Hollywood.


After receiving a Best Actor nomination for Patton, George C. Scott took an anti-Oscar stance that was so controversial, it landed on the cover of Time magazine. Surprisingly, he still won. The film's producer, Frank McCarthy, accepted the award on Scott's behalf at the 1971 ceremony, but returned it to the Academy the next day as the actor wished.


Jason Robards notified the Academy he wouldn't attend the 1978 Oscars (where he won for Julia, his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar in a row) because he was doing a play on Broadway. Although Robards wasn't making a political statement with his absence, host Bob Hope still joked, "I think he's playing bridge with Marlon Brandon and George Scott."

Roman Polanski in The Pianist (2002)

Roman Polanski has been a fugitive from U.S. justice since 1978, when he fled the country rather than face rape charges. So when he won Best Director for The Pianist in 2003, presenter Harrison Ford, who starred in Polanski's Frantic, accepted the award on his behalf.

Woody Allen in Annie Hall (1977)

Woody Allen has routinely skipped the Oscars, even in 1978, when Annie Hall won Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay. He was also absent for his two other screenplay wins for Midnight in Paris and Hannah and Her Sisters. He did attend in 2002, as part of a post 9/11 tribute to New York.

Paul Newman in The Color of Money (1986)

After six acting nominations, Paul Newman finally won an Oscar for The Color of Money in 1987. But Newman, who had previously received two Honorary Oscars, did not attend the ceremony. As he told the Associated Press, "It's like chasing a beautiful woman for 80 years. Finally, she relents, and you say, 'I'm terribly sorry. I'm tired.'"

Michael Caine in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Michael Caine had one of the worst excuses ever for not attending the Oscars. In 1987, he was filming Jaws: The Revenge and missed his Best Supporting Actor win for Hannah and Her Sisters. He was there to accept his second Oscar for The Cider House Rules in 2000 and gave one of the humblest, most gracious speeches of all time.


John Gielgud was not there to receive his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Arthur in 1982. As he later wrote a friend, "Wild horses would not drag me to the awards ceremony. I really detest all that mutual congratulation baloney and the invidious comparisons which they invoke."

Peter Sellers and Melvyn Douglas in Being There (1979)

Melvyn Douglas was not present to accept his Best Supporting Actor award for Being There in 1980 because he was sure he wouldn't win, saying beforehand, "It has been said an actor has no chance against a child or an animal. Justin Henry's up for Kramer vs. Kramer, and Mickey Rooney's up for The Black Stallion." He also skipped the ceremony in 1964 when he won an Oscar for Hud.

3631-15 Henry and Jane Fonda, Katharine Hepburn in

For the second Oscar of his career (he'd previously received an Honorary Oscar), Henry Fonda watched from his Bel Air home while daughter Jane accepted the Best Actor Oscar for him in 1982 for On Golden Pond. Fonda, then 76, was suffering from a severe heart condition. He died five months later.

Ellen Burstyn, ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, Warner Bros., 1938, **I.V.

In 1975, Ellen Burstyn was on Broadway with Same Time, Next Year and asked director Martin Scorsese to accept her Best Actress Award for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. She told him to thank himself. She later won a Tony for Same Time, Next Year and starred in the movie version in 1978.

Robert De Niro in The Godfather: Part II (1974)

At the 1975 Oscars, Robert De Niro won Best Supporting Actor for portraying young Vito Corleone in The Godfather, Part II, but he was busy filming 1900 with Bernardo Bertolucci. Francis Ford Coppola accepted on his behalf.

Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1969)

Two-time Oscar winner Glenda Jackson recently discussed why she was a no-show for her Best Actress wins for A Touch of Class and Women in Love in the '70s, telling EW she didn't "earn" the awards: "If there was a winner, it was the people who voted for me."

Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and The Beatles in Let It Be (1969)

Since Let It Be was The Beatles final album (they broke up in 1970 shortly after making the album and its companion film), it's no surprise none of the members showed up to receive their Best Original Song Oscar in 1971.

Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)

Maggie Smith did not attend the 1970 Academy Awards when she won Best Actress for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie because she was appearing in a play in London. Lauren Bacall gave Smith her Oscar backstage at the Tony Awards a few weeks later.

Goldie Hawn in Cactus Flower (1969)

Goldie Hawn was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Cactus Flower but committed to filming There's a Girl in My Soup in London. She says she forgot about the 1970 Oscars entirely until she was awakened by a 5 a.m. call congratulating her on her win.

Stanley Kubrick in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Stanley Kubrick did not attend the 1969 Oscars despite the fact that 2001: A Space Odyssey was nominated for four awards, including Best Director. He won Best Visual Effects, which was the legendary director's only Oscar.

Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker (1962)

Anne Bancroft was in the middle of a Broadway run of Mother Courage. That's why she did not collect her 1963 Best Actress Oscar for The Miracle Worker until it was presented to her a month later by Joan Crawford, who had accepted on her behalf.


Sophia Loren, the first to win an acting Oscar for a foreign language film (Vittorio De Sica's Two Women), was too nervous to attend in 1962. As she explained later, "I thought, 'If they do give it to me, I'm going to faint among the audience. So, it's better to faint at home.'" She was presented with her Best Actress award at her apartment in Rome two weeks later.

Alec Guinness and James Donald in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Alec Guinness was the favorite to win Best Actor in 1958 for The Bridge on the River Kwai but still didn't attend. He seemed a bit miffed later as he told the press the win had cost him a bottle of wine in a bet with a reporter. "I really didn't think I'd win it," he said. "I'd never have put money on myself."


Anastasia marked Ingrid Bergman's triumphant return to Hollywood after her scandalous affair with Roberto Rossellini. But she was a no-show when she was named Best Actress in 1957; good friend Cary Grant accepted on her behalf. She did collect her third Oscar (for 1978's Murder on the Orient Express) in person.


In 1953, Gary Cooper was filming in Mexico and couldn't make it to accept his Best Actor Award for High Noon. John Wayne accepted for him. Cooper was also absent for his 1961 Honorary Award. When Jimmy Stewart got choked up accepting the award on his behalf, everyone realized just how ill Cooper was. The actor died a month after the ceremony.

Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

In 1952, Vivien Leigh was appearing as Cleopatra on Broadway with husband Laurence Olivier and heard about her Best Actress win for A Streetcar Named Desire over the radio while backstage.

Marlon Brando and Kim Hunter in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Kim Hunter, the 1952 Best Supporting Actress winner for A Streetcar Named Desire, opted not to attend the ceremony in Los Angeles. She listened over the radio while playing cards. The Oscars began airing on TV the following year in 1953.

Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday (1950)

In the 1951 race for Best Actress, newcomer Judy Holliday triumphed with Born Yesterday, beating out Bette Davis for All About Eve and Gloria Swanson for Sunset Blvd. She gave an acceptance speech from the New York Oscar party, where Swanson was also celebrating. But the radio connection was lost, and no one outside the room heard it.

Laurence Olivier in

Laurence Olivier was nominated for Best Actor nine times and only attended the Oscars twice. He was busy filming Hamlet when he won an Honorary Award in 1947 for Henry V, and he was doing a play in London when Hamlet won Best Picture and Best Actor in 1949.

Best Actress Joan Crawford (

Joan Crawford was so nervous about her nomination for her big comeback movie, Mildred Pierce, she stayed home on Oscar night 1946, saying she was "sick." Upon learning she'd won, she quickly had her makeup team get her camera ready to pose with her new Oscar.

Alice Brady

This couldn't happen today, but in 1938, Alice Brady had her Best Supporting Actress prize for In Old Chicago stolen. She was home, reportedly due to a broken ankle, and an impostor claimed the plaque (statuettes weren't given to supporting actors until 1944). She was later given a replacement. Since she died soon after, the legend persists that she never got her award.

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