- Actors Bradley Cooper and Greta Gerwig, known for their acting careers, have been nominated for Oscars for their writing in Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay, respectively.
- Sylvester Stallone wrote the screenplay for the Rocky franchise and earned a Best Original Screenplay nomination for the first film. He also received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Creed.
- Emma Thompson is the only person in cinema history to win Oscars for both acting and writing, earning a Best Actress award for Howards End and a Best Adapted Screenplay award for Sense and Sensibility.
The film industry is full of talented people, some of whom have more than one string to their bow. Over the years, many well-known actors have proven that they’re more than just a one-trick pony, turning their hand to all kinds of skills. Stars such as Clint Eastwood, Jodie Foster, and John Krasinski have had successful careers as directors, while other household names like Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie have become increasingly involved in the producer side of filmmaking.
A less common occurrence, but one that’s not as rare as one might think, is an actor making the transition to writer or vice versa. Many a thespian has proven they have a way with words, but only some have been lucky enough to have their efforts rewarded with any award. With the 96th Academy Awards ceremony just around the corner, eyes are once again on who will win the awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay. Interestingly enough, both Bradley Cooper and Greta Gerwig, who got their start in acting, are nominated for Best Original and Best Adapted Screenplay respectively. So, with that in mind, here is a list of famous actors who have been nominated for writing Oscars.
Update January 28, 2024: This article has been updated with even more actors who have been nominated for writing Oscars at the Academy Awards.
14 Sylvester Stallone
Rocky Balboa, the underdog boxer who manages to win the world heavyweight championship, is still to this day Sylvester Stallone‘s most memorable role. A lesser-known fact about this franchise is that the actor, besides starring as the lead, wrote the screenplays and even directed some of the movies. For his efforts as an actor and writer, Stallone became the third actor in cinema to be nominated for both Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor at the Oscars in the same year for Rocky.
Stallone did not win either category, but Rocky did go on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Stallone would then receive his next Oscar nomination almost forty years later, once again for Rocky Balboa. Stallone was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Creed.
13 Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson is considered one of the best actresses of her generation, and has been the recipient of a number of awards and distinctions, not just for her performances, but also for her screenplays. In 1995, Thompson wrote and starred in Sense and Sensibility, the period drama film based on Jane Austen’s novel of the same name, which also featured Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, and Hugh Grant. For this movie, Thompson earned a nomination for Best Actress and won Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars. Given that three years earlier she had won a statuette for her performance in Howards End, she became the only person in the history of cinema to win Oscars for both her acting and her writing.
12 Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper has been working as an actor since 1999, and from 2011 onwards, he has also been serving as executive producer. Then, in 2018, he decided to have a go at directing and writing, heading the film A Star is Born. This production recounts the gripping story of Jack and Ally (Lady Gaga), two artists who merge their destinies both on stage and in their lives. For the movie’s screenplay, Cooper collaborated with Eric Roth and Will Fetters, and in 2019, the trio received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
In 2024, Cooper managed to match this success with three nominations, including Best Original Screenplay, for the biographical drama Maestro. Cooper is also nominated for Best Actor for the film, and Maestro is also nominated for Best Picture. This means that Cooper’s two films has has written have both earned him nominations as both an actor and a writer.
11 Kenneth Branagh
Perhaps not surprisingly for a filmmaker of his stature, British actor and director Kenneth Branagh has been nominated for a writing Oscar on more than one occasion. His first was for 1997’s Hamlet, which Branagh also directed and starred in as the title character. Meanwhile, his second nomination came in the form of the 2021 coming-of-age film, Belfast, which was loosely based on Branagh’s own childhood growing up in Northern Ireland. Belfast subsequently won in the category of Best Original Screenplay.
Branagh also holds a distinct record as being the first person to have been nominated in seven different categories of the Academy Awards as he had over the course of his career, been nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Live-Action Short Film.
10 Kristen Wiig
Bridesmaids was actress and comedian Kristen Wiig‘s screenwriting debut, in which she starred as Annie Walker, a young woman going through a rough patch who is asked by her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) to be her maid of honor. For the screenplay of this comedy, on which Wiig teamed up with Annie Mumolo, the two were nominated at the Oscars. This duo of writers re-teamed a second time in the 2021 film Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, a film in which they also co-starred.
9 Jim Rash
Possibly the most surprising entry on this is comedian and actor Jim Rash. Best known for playing the flamboyant and eccentric Dean Craig Pelton in the NBS sitcom Community, Rash has a whole other life as a filmmaker that few fans of the show know about. Along with his comedy partner Nat Faxon and director Alexander Payne, Rash won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the 2011 comedy-drama The Descendants. Based on the novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Hemmings, the film stars George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, and Judy Greer, and was a financial success. Rash and Faxon have since written screenplays for 2013’s The Way Way Back and 2020’s Downhill, both of which they also co-directed.
8 Kumail Nanjiani
7 Actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani reached new levels of fame when he starred in the 2017 romantic comedy-drama The Big Sick. However, as well as playing the film’s main character, Nanjiani also co-wrote the script with his real-life wife, Emily V. Gordon. The film tells the story of a stand-up comedian and graduate student in an interracial relationship whose cultural differences are tested when the woman in the relationship becomes sick with a mysterious illness. The plot of the film was loosely based on Nanjiani and Gordon’s own experiences.Both writers went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay at the 89th annual ceremony for their work on the film. The duo recently revealed that they have finished work on another romantic comedy script, one they hope to get produced soon.
6 Greta Gerwig
Actress Greta Gerwig has grown into one of the best directors of her generation. The star of films such as Frances Ha and Mistress America never stopped acting, but she has also worked as a writer, producer, and director for several years. All three of Gerwig’s directorial efforts have been nominated for screenplay Oscars. Her debut film Lady Bird was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
Meanwhile Little Women and Gerwig’s latest Barbie, landed nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay. While Little Women lost the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar to Jojo Rabbit, Barbie’s is still pending and Gerwig might walk away with the prize come Oscar night. It is worth noting that all three films in which Gerwig wrote and directed have been nominated for Best Picture.
5 Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
In 1995, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy starred in Before Sunrise, a romantic drama film that kicked off Richard Linklater’s trilogy. In this production, Hawke and Delpy are Jesse and Céline, two young people who met on a train from Budapest and eventually fell in love. Besides starring in the film, they both collaborated as writers, but were not credited for their work at the time.
But in the sequels, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, released in 2004 and 2013 respectively, they both worked on the screenplays alongside Linklater once again. This time, their screenwriting duties earned them each Oscar nominations for both entries in the film series.
4 Sacha Baron Cohen
The character of Borat Sagdiyev has brought British comedy actor Sacha Baron Cohen a lot of success over the years. As well as making the star financially better off and bringing him to worldwide attention, the character has also had a hand in earning Cohen two Oscar nominations. For both films in the Borat series, 2006’s Borat and 2020’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Cohen was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Achievements that Borat himself would deem “very nice!”.
3 Maggie Gyllenhaal
As an actress, Maggie Gyllenhaal has gained recognition and acclaim for her roles in films such as Donnie Darko, Adaptation, The Dark Knight, and Crazy Heart. However, in recent years, Gyllenhaal has made the transition into writing and directing. Her feature film debut, The Lost Daughter, premiered in 2021 to critical acclaim. Starring Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, and Dakota Johnson, the film went on to enjoy awards success, which included an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, but she lost the award to Sian Heder for CODA.
2 Ben Affleck and Matt Damon
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have been friends since their childhood, and they have worked together on many films throughout their careers. However, the 1997 film Good Will Hunting marked a milestone for both of them, as it was their screenwriting debut and earned them their first Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. This film, directed by Gus Van Sant, also starred Damon and Affleck, alongside Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, and Stellan Skarsgård.
Since Good Will Hunting, Damon has pursued a storied career as an actor, screenwriter, and producer, while Affleck, on top of those roles, has also served as a director and won his second Academy Award for Argo when it won Best Picture. The duo have reunited many times over the course of their career, as they, alongside Nicole Holofcener, wrote The Last Duel. While they did not pen the script, Affleck and Damon reunited for Air, which both of them co-starred and Affleck directed.
1 George Clooney
George Clooney is yet another great actor who turned into a very good director, but that didn’t stop him from writing and producing films. Cloney was nominated for two Oscars for Good Night, and Good Luck, which he directed and co-wrote with Grant Heslov. Clooney was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. He was also part of the cast along with David Strathairn, Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels, and Robert Downey Jr. Funny enough, Clooney would win an Oscar at the very same ceremony, but not for Good Night and Good Luck but instead for Syriana, which he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
A few years later, Clooney was nominated once again for Best Adapted Screenplay for the 2011 film The Ides of March, which was directed by him and co-written with Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon. He also served as one of the film’s producers and co-starred in it alongside Ryan Gosling. Despite his later screenplays, Monuments Men and Subirbicon failing to win over critics, audiences, and Oscar voters, it is still impressive he has been nominated for two screenplay Oscars.
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