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33 Days: How Tall Do You Have to Be to Win a Best Actor Oscar?

February 15, 2011

The tallest Best Actor Winner of the 70s...

A reader sent me an email posing this question.

According to Malcolm Gladwell we are some tall men loving folk!

In the U.S. population, about 14.5 percent of all men are six feet or over. Among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that number is 58 percent. Even more strikingly, in the general American population, 3.9 percent of adult men are 6’2″ or taller. Among my CEO sample, 30 percent were 6’2″ or taller. The lack of women or minorities among the top executive ranks at least has a plausible explanation. For years, for a number of reasons having to do with discrimination and cultural patterns, there simply weren’t a lot of women and minorities entering the management ranks of American corporations…. a person who is six feet tall, but who is otherwise identical to someone who is five foot five, will make on average $5,525 more per year. As Timothy Judge, one of the authors of the study, points out: “If you take this over the course of a 30-year career and compound it, we’re talking about a tall person enjoying literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of earnings advantage.” Have you ever wondered why so many mediocrities find their way into positions of authority in companies and organizations? It’s because when it comes to even the most important positions, we think that our selection decisions are a good deal more rational than they actually are. We see a tall person, and we swoon.


I once wrote about height:

I care and am interested because I want to know what my culture instructing me to believe, desire and think. I mean I know all about heightism, particularly as it relates to men in Western society and how it shapes masculinity and notions of desirability. But it’s one thing to read all the papers, analysis and studies, but it’s an entirely DIFFERENT thing to see the results of those papers and studies playing out in your OWN life, particularly when you tout yourself as critically conscious. Actively resisting culturally dictated desires – and I’m not just referring to physical desires – is something I rabidly pursue. I want to like what I like because I like it and not because I’ve been trained to. I want to love Barney Miller because it’s a great fucking show and not because Hal Linden is 6’0 and I live in a society, which actively instructs its citizens to obsessively pursue and desire what is rare and enables those who acquire it to benefit from a status bump simply for their deft acquisition skills.

So where do the Best Actor Oscar winners fit within Gladwell’s framework? I’ll let you decide.

70s Best Actors Ranked by Height
Gene Hackman (6’2) – The French Connection
Jon Voight (6’2) – Coming Home
George C. Scott (6’1) – Patton
Peter Finch (5’11) – Network
Art Carney (5’10) – Harry and Tonto
Marlon Brando (5’9) – Godfather
Jack Lemmon (5’9) – Save the Tiger
Jack Nicholson (5’9) – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Dustin Hoffman (5’6) – Kramer Vs. Kramer
Richard Dreyfuss (5.5) – The Goodbye Girl

80s Best Actors Ranked by Height
William Hurt (6’2) – Kiss of the Spiderwoman
Daniel Day Lewis (6’1.5) – My Left Foot
Henry Fonda (6’1) – On Golden Pond
F. Murray Abraham (5’11) – Amadeus
Michael Douglas (5’10.25) – Wall Street
Robert Duvall (5’10) – Tender Mercies
Paul Newman (5’9.25) – The Color of Money
Robert Deniro (5’9) – Raging Bull
Dustin Hoffman (5’6) – Rainman

90s Best Actors Ranked by Height
Jeremy Irons (6’2) – Reversal of Fortune
Tom Hanks (6’1) – Philadelphia/Forrest Gump
Nicholas Cage (6’1) – Leaving Las Vegas
Kevin Spacey (5’11) – American Beauty
Geoffrey Rush (5’11) – Shine
Jack Nicholson (5’9) – As Good as it Gets
Al Pacino (5’7) – Scent of a Woman
Sir Anthony (5’7) – The Silence of the Lambs
Roberto Benigni (5’6) – Life is Beautiful

00s Best Actors Ranked by Height
Forest Whitaker (6’2) – Last King of Scotland
Daniel Day Lewis (6’1.5) – There Will Be Blood
Jeff Bridges (6’1) – True Grit
Adrian Brody (6’1) – The Pianist
Denzel Washington (6’0) – Training Day
Russell Crowe – (5’11) – Gladiator
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (5’9) – Capote
Jamie Foxx (5’9) – Ray
Sean Penn (5’7) – Mystic River/Milk

Heights of the 2011’s tallest nominees:
Jeff Bridges – 6’1
Colin Firth – 6’11
Javier Bardem – 6’1

The tallest Academy Award nominated actor is James “That’ll do, pig.” Cromwell at 6’7
The shortest Academy Award nominated actor is Bob “I’m sexy as all get out cause Snarky said so” Hoskins at 5’6.

The tallest Oscar winning actor: Tim Robbins at 6’5. A record previously held by The Duke! (6’4)
The shortest Oscar winning actor: Joe Pesci at 5’4

The 60s seemed to favor men of head and shoulders well above the rest of the population) with only one actor who would be considered of average height. No, assy women of the internet dating, 5’8 – 5’10 is not short.

John Wayne (6’4), Gregory Peck (6’3), Sidney Poitier (6’2), Lee Marvin (6’2.5), Burt Lancaster (6’1), Rex Harrison (6’1), Paul Scofield (6’1), Maximilian Schell (5’11), Cliff Robertson (5’11) Rod Steiger (5’8)

1 (there is debate about Firth. Some sites saying he’s closer to 6’2) If only that bastard had been in scenes with Liam Neeson (6’4) in Love Actually, I could have gotten a better gage. Where’s Adam Baldwin (6’4) – a.k.a the celebrity measuring stick – when you need him?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. evmaroon permalink
    February 15, 2011 6:46 pm

    Geez, I better try to get to the podium before 5’9″ guys are passe! Great breakdown, Snarky.

  2. eieioj permalink
    February 15, 2011 9:33 pm

    I find it interesting that the decades start off with tall men, and they gradually get shorter.

  3. eieioj permalink
    February 15, 2011 9:34 pm

    Err… I totally misread the line-ups. This is what no sleep does for me.

  4. February 16, 2011 2:48 pm

    So does the observation that taller-than-average men tend to get best actor mean that shorter actors (like Pacino or Hoffman) have to be even better? I would probably agree with that assertion. Even a merely average-height actor like DeNiro is, to my mind, head and shoulders above a William Hurt or Tom Hanks.

  5. emmitt permalink
    February 16, 2011 10:45 pm

    My god, James Cromwell is a giant.

    I love that man.

  6. tanyadiva permalink
    February 17, 2011 6:41 pm

    It seems like it helps if you’re English — height and winnability-wise. Just sayin’. Your move, Mr. Firth.

  7. May 12, 2011 9:35 pm

    well yes, there are some really tall guys but there is also some shrt ones and + i checked some of the heights you mentioned and Adrien Brody, Bardem and Tom Hanks are 6 foot tall and jon voight is 6’3.

  8. May 12, 2011 9:52 pm

    Where did you check. Celebheights tends to be the most accurate because they themselves measure most of the actors on their site. Many of their measurers work on film sets or in the business. Jon Voight was never 6’3 except in shoes and in his dreams. There’s a lot of dispute about Voight’s height, with most agreeing at peak he was at most 6’2.50. Bardem has been downgraded by celebheights to 5’11.

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