If Renée Zellweger takes home an Academy Award on Sunday for her portrayal of Judy Garland, it will be the first time any actor has triumphed for playing a famous Minnesotan.
Not that “Judy” spends much time singing the praises of the late artist’s hometown of Grand Rapids. But since Oscar rarely pays any attention to our state’s own, we’ll celebrate any connection we can find.
After scouring the entire roster of nominees over the past 90 years, we could identify only a handful of performances that got nods for playing real-life protagonists with strong Minnesota connections. Not the most impressive of numbers, but at least we’re better off than Iowa, which can only point to Richard Farnsworth tooling across the state on a tractor in 1999’s “The Straight Story.”
Here are those temporary “Minnesotans” who got invited to the Academy Awards — and one who inexplicably got snubbed.
The film: “Judy” (2019).
Based on: The legend’s troubled run of stage shows in the twilight of her career.
The actress: Renée Zellweger.
Why she’ll win: In the past 15 years, playing music legends has paid off for Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury), Jamie Foxx (Ray Charles), Reese Witherspoon (June Carter Cash) and Marion Cotillard (Edith Piaf). Anyone with a brain expects Zellweger, who previously starred in the Minnesota-set films “New in Town,” and “Leatherheads” to score.
The film: “Missing” (1982).
Based on: Attempts by Joyce Horman, a human rights activist from Owatonna, to go after those involved in her husband’s death in Chile. (The name was changed at her request.)
The actress: Sissy Spacek.
Why she lost: Too much of Spacek’s screen time was spent trying to calm down a histrionic Jack Lemmon, who also got an Oscar nod. Plus, Meryl Streep’s gut-wrenching performance in “Sophie’s Choice” was not to be denied. “Frances” star Jessica Lange also got steamrolled by the G.O.A.T., but the Minnesotan was comforted with a victory for her supporting role in “Tootsie.”
Josey Aimes and Glory Dodge
The film: “North Country” (2005).
Based on: Real-life Minnesotans Lois Jenson and Pat Kosmach, who filed a class-action lawsuit against a Minnesota taconite mining company.
The actresses: Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand.
Why they lost: Voters couldn’t rally behind “Norma Rae II.” Theron, who had won just two years earlier for “Monster,” lost to Witherspoon (“Walk the Line”). McDormand, who is married to St. Louis Park’s Joel Coen and took home an Oscar for playing a fictional Minnesota police chief in “Fargo,” fell to Rachel Weisz (“The Constant Gardener”) for supporting actress. Another also-ran in that race: Chanhassen Dinner Theatres veteran Amy Adams, whose scene-stealing work in “Junebug” earned her the first of six nominations. She has yet to win.
The film: “I’m Not There” (2007).
Based on: Bob Dylan. Sort of.
The actress: Cate Blanchett.
Why she lost: Too tangled. Six actors played different personas of Dylan, an approach that some found more daunting than understanding the Bard From the North Country’s lyrics in concert. Heath Ledger, who played another of the fake Dylans, would win a posthumous Oscar the following year for his role as the Joker in “The Dark Knight.”
Cheryl Strayed and Bobbi Grey
The film: “Wild” (2014).
Based on: Strayed’s memoir, which detailed how she used a punishing trek on the Pacific Crest Trail to reflect on her Minnesota childhood and her mother Bobbi’s death from cancer. Minnesota filmmaker Bill Pohlad, whose family owns the Minnesota Twins, served as a producer.
The actresses: Witherspoon and Laura Dern.
Why they lost: It was Julianne Moore’s time. The star had come up short four times before, which made her practically a lock for best actress — even if you couldn’t find more than four people who had seen “Still Alice.” Dern had even less of a shot against Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood” in the supporting actress race. But the “Marriage Story” scene-stealer is that category’s runaway favorite to win Sunday in what’s also being treated as a sort of lifetime achievement award.
J. Paul Getty
The film: “All the Money in the World” (2017).
Based on: Accounts of how the Minneapolis-born oil tycoon stonewalled mobsters who kidnapped his grandson in the ’70s.
The actor: Christopher Plummer.
Why he lost: The performance wasn’t really award-worthy, but Hollywood had to find a way of thanking Plummer for stepping in at the last minute so that director Ridley Scott could excise the disgraced Kevin Spacey from the film. Plummer was 88 at the time, making him the oldest person ever to be nominated in an acting category. Sam Rockwell wound up winning as best supporting actor for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
And one performance that didn’t get Oscar love but should have:
The film: “Miracle” (2004).
Based on: The University of Minnesota hockey coach’s series of upsets at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
The actor: Kurt Russell.
Why he was robbed: The best actor category was packed with big names that year, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood, Don Cheadle and Jamie Foxx, who won for “Ray.” But how in the world did Russell get iced out by Johnny Depp’s performance in “Finding Neverland”? Blame the sports film’s release date (voters often overlook contenders that came out as early as February) and the fact that people still think of the never-nominated Russell as “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.”