6 Nonexistent People Who Were Nominated for Oscars

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

It’s hard enough to get nominated for an Academy Award if you're a living, breathing person. It’s even harder to be nominated when you don’t actually exist. Here are six “people” who did just that.

1. ROBERT RICH // THE BRAVE ONE (1956)

Dalton Trumbo—the subject of the Oscar-nominated 2015 biopic Trumbo—was famously part of the infamous Hollywood blacklist during the Communist-hunting McCarthy Era. But he wouldn’t let a ban keep him from writing, and he did so under not one pseudonym, but dozens. Two of them won Academy Awards. Trumbo was a member of the Communist Party USA who served 11 months in a Kentucky penitentiary for contempt of Congress when he refused to name names during the HUAC investigation. He won an Oscar for The Brave One under the name Robert Rich, which he eventually received in 1975, just a year before his death. Trumbo also wrote Roman Holiday using real writer Ian McLellan Hunter as a front. McLellan received the Academy Award for Roman Holiday, but later admitted he hadn’t been involved with it at all. Trumbo received his rightful posthumous Oscar in 1993 for the Audrey Hepburn classic, and in 2011, writing credit was restored on the movie itself.

2. PIERRE BOULLE // THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957)

This one is slightly misleading, because Pierre Boulle did actually exist. Not only did he write the novel The Bridge Over the River Kwai, he also penned Planet of the Apes. But even though Boulle won an Oscar for writing the screenplay for Bridge, he didn’t actually write it—nor did he speak or read any English whatsoever. The real writers who adapted the novel were also part of the blacklist, so they were unable to take credit for their achievement. The widows of the two writers, Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson, finally received their posthumous Academy Awards in 1985.

3. NATHAN E. DOUGLAS // THE DEFIANT ONES (1958)

Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in 'The Defiant Ones' (1958)
MGM

Similarly, Nathan E. Douglas was invented to cover for Nedrick Young, a writer who was blacklisted after invoking his Fifth Amendment rights during his trial by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave him credit for the Oscar win in 1993, 25 years after Young’s death. Young was also nominated for Inherit the Wind in 1960, but didn't win.

4. P.H. VAZAK // GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES (1984)

Well, P.H. Vazak did exist. But if he wrote Greystoke, he deserves an entry in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as well as the Oscar history books, since P.H. Vazak was a Hungarian sheepdog. The real writer behind the screenplay, Robert Towne, was unhappy with the direction some rewrites had taken and decided he didn’t want credit for them. Though it surely would have been more entertaining than most of the speeches given at the 1985 Academy Awards ceremony, P.H. Vazak didn’t have to give a speech: Amadeus won for Best Adapted Screenplay instead.

5. RODERICK JAYNES // FARGO (1996) AND NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007)

Roderick Jaynes is a pretty talented guy for not being a real person. Jaynes has edited all of the Coen brothers' movies and was even nominated as one of Entertainment Weekly’s Smartest People in Hollywood in 2007. Joel Coen explained that Jaynes probably wouldn't be making an appearance at the 2008 Oscars, despite the nomination. “He’s very old—late 80s, early 90s—so I don’t know if he’d make the trip." In actuality, the Coens edit all of their own movies and use the elderly Brit as a front. Jaynes didn't win for No Country, and when asked how the award-less editor was dealing with the loss, Ethan Coen replied, "We know he's elderly and unhappy, so probably not well."

6. DONALD KAUFMAN // ADAPTATION. (2002)

Nicolas Cage (and Nicolas Cage) stars in 'Adaptation.' (2002)
Columbia Pictures

In the late 1990s, Charlie Kaufman was hired to write a film adaptation of Susan Orlean’s best-selling novel, The Orchid Thief. He promptly came down with a killer case of writer’s block, but instead of letting it stop the process, Kaufman wrote it into the story he was struggling with. He created a fictional brother named Donald, who helped him write the movie—both the one in the movie and the movie itself. However, when the real movie got nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, the “real” Donald Kaufman had tragically perished during pre-production. It turns out Donald wouldn’t have had to claim the Oscar alongside his faux brother anyway: Adaptation lost out to Ronald Harwood for The Pianist.

An earlier version of this story ran in 2013.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Almost Had a Different Title

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a favorite for fans of both the Harry Potter book series and its film franchise. In addition to offering readers a more mature outing for Harry and the gang, the stakes are far more dangerous—and the characters’ hormones are all over the place.

The name Goblet of Fire is a pretty literal title, as that’s how Harry is forced into the Triwizard Tournament. In addition to being accurate, the title has a nice ring to it, but it was previously revealed that JK Rowling had some other names in the running.

In JK Rowling: A Bibliography 1997-2013, author Philip W. Errington reveals tons of unknown details about the Harry Potter series, so much so that Rowling herself described it as "slavishly thorough and somewhat mind-boggling." In it, Errington revealed that Goblet of Fire had at least three alternate titles: Harry Potter and the Death Eaters, Harry Potter and the Fire Goblet, and Harry Potter and the Three Champions were all working titles before the final decision was made.

While Death Eaters sounds far too depressing and scary to market as a children’s book, Fire Goblet just doesn’t have the elegance of Goblet of Fire. As for Three Champions? It's as boring as it is vague. So kudos to Rowling and her editor for definitely making the correct choice here.

It's not the only time a Harry Potter title led to a larger discussion—and some confusion. In 1998, readers around the world were introduced to Harry through the first book in the series: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. But elsewhere around the world, it was known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

As Errington explains in his book, the book's publisher wanted “a title that said ‘magic’ more overtly to American readers." They were concerned that Philosopher's Stone would feel "arcane," and proposed some alternatives. While Rowling agreed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, she later admitted that she regretted the decision.

"To be honest, I wish I hadn't agreed now," she explained. "But it was my first book, and I was so grateful that anyone was publishing me I wanted to keep them happy."

The 20 Best-Selling Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Movie soundtracks can be big business—sometimes bigger than the movie itself. (And sometimes better than the film itself.) In early December 2018, three soundtracks were in the Billboard Top 10, and Mariah Carey’s Glitter soundtrack has been in the news recently for reentering the charts. But they have a long way to go before entering the top echelon.

Here are the 20 best-selling movie soundtracks of all time—many of which have been on the list for decades.

(The following list is based on RIAA certified units).

1. The Bodyguard (1992)

Certified units: 18 million

Elvis Presley originally wanted to record Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” but his people wanted half the publishing rights. Parton refused and later commented that “when Whitney [Houston’s version] came out, I made enough money to buy Graceland."

2. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Certified units: 16 million

CPR will never be the same.

3. Purple Rain (1984)

Certified units: 13 million

Prince wrote around 100 songs for the movie—and "Purple Rain" wasn’t even in that original group.

4. Forrest Gump (1994)

Certified units: 12 million

Like a box of chocolates, except songs, with everything from Jefferson Airplane to Lynyrd Skynyrd featured in Robert Zemeckis's Oscar-winning hit.

5. Dirty Dancing (1987)

Certified units: 11 million

Maybe don’t rush to get the album if you love the film’s songs: According to executive producer Jimmy Ienner, “We needed different mixes for the film and record ... For example, the guitars were dropped way down for the film because guitars weren’t a dominant instrument back then; saxophones were. We took out most of the synthesized stuff and replaced it with organs in the film version.”

6. Titanic (1997)

Certified units: 11 million

Céline Dion told Billboard that when she was recording "My Heart Will Go On," her thoughts were: “Sing the song, then get the heck out of there."

7. The Lion King (1994)

Certified units: 10 million

"Nants ingonyama" apparently translates to “Here comes a lion.” And if you've seen this Disney classic—which is about to get a live-action remake—you certainly know what "Hakuna Matata" means.

8. Footloose (1984)

Certified units: 9 million

When Ann Wilson of Heart was prepping to duet for the song “Almost Paradise” for Footloose, she broke her wrist. But she refused painkillers because they’d affect her singing voice.

9. Top Gun (1986)

Certified units: 9 million

The songs of Top Gun “still define the bombastic, melodramatic sound that dominated the pop charts of the [mid-80s],” according to AllMusic

10. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Certified units: 8 million

According to Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons, they were introduced to bluegrass through the Coen brothers's O Brother, Where Art Thou, saying “That movie kind of heralded the advent of bluegrass in mainstream British culture."

11. Grease (1978)

Certified units: 8 million

According to Box Office Mojo, Grease is the second highest-grossing musical of all time, beaten only by 2017’s Beauty and the Beast.

12. Waiting To Exhale (1995)

Certified units: 7 million

The song “Exhale” is famous for its "shoop" chorus. But writer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds explained that it’s a result of every time he wanted to write actual lyrics, they just got in the way.

13. The Little Mermaid (1989)

Certified units: 6 million

According to co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker, “Part of Your World” was nearly cut from The Little Mermaid after a black-and-white and sometimes sketched version made a test audience squirm with boredom. Everyone kept with it until a more polished version solved the problem.

14. Pure Country (1992)

Certified units: 6 million

Not bad for a movie that only grossed $15 million (and one you've probably never heard of).

15. Flashdance (1983)

Certified units: 6 million

The song “Maniac” was originally inspired by a horror film the songwriters saw (the lyrics were rewritten for Flashdance).

16. Space Jam (1996)

Certified units: 6 million

Not only was "I Believe I Can Fly" the best-selling soundtrack single of 1997, but third place was Monica’s “For You I Will”—which is also from Space Jam.

17. The Big Chill (1983)

Certified units: 6 million

By RIAA certified units, The Big Chill soundtrack is the fifth biggest Motown album of all time.

18. City of Angels (1998)

Certified units: 5 million

One of the chief songs from the soundtrack—“Uninvited” by Alanis Morissette—caused some piracy issues. A California radio station got their hands on a bootlegged copy and played it. Someone recorded the song off the radio and uploaded it to the internet (this was in 1998) and even radio stations began playing illegally downloaded versions. As a result, Warner Music was forced to release the album to radio stations a week earlier than planned.

19. The Jazz Singer (1980)

Certified units: 5 million

Fun Fact: Neil Diamond won the first Razzie for Worst Actor for this movie and was also nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor.

20. Evita (1996)

Certified units: 5 million

Evita started off as a concept album in 1976. Then two years later it premiered on London’s West End. In 1979 it debuted on Broadway and an album was released that went platinum in the U.S. before Madonna got to it.

Honorable Mention: Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Certified units: 5 million

Whether a Broadway cast recording counts as a soundtrack or not is debatable, but Lin-Manuel Miranda’s cultural powerhouse managed to shift as many units as Madonna and Neil Diamond, according to the RIAA .

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