This Sunday, February 26, 2012, the 84th annual Academy Awards will be held in Hollywood, gathering together all of the film industry’s biggest names. While Eddie Murphy, who backed out on hosting duties, might be absent, there will be a plethora of African American actors and actresses both as attendees and nominees. Namely, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, who both earned nods for their exceptional work in The Help. Given that both women are favored to take home a golden statuette (only time will tell), BlackEnterprise.com Decodes the financial impact of an Oscar win by looking back at the select few African Americans performers who have struck gold on Hollywood’s biggest night. —Darralynn Hutson
SIDNEY L. POITIER
In 1963, Poitier became the first Black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field. He was 37 at the time. Acting professional from 1943 to 2001, Poitier already had memorable performances in American classics like The Defiant Ones, A Raisin in the Sun and Porgy and Bess at the time of his win. Post-Oscar he went on to star in To Sir, With Love, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and They Call Me Mister Tibbs!, as well as directing Uptown Saturday Night, Let’s Do it Again, A Piece of the Action and Stir Crazy. Now 84, Poitier is an activist and diplomat for human rights who has an estimated net worth of $65 million dollars.
At the age of 47, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win the coveted Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939). It was a role that she was paid just $1,000 a week during the film’s six-month production. Born to perform, McDaniel went on to have a successful career as an actress that was financially stable. In 1942, she purchased an impressive two-story, 17-room Hollywood mansion. She was known for her yearly parties. In her lifetime, McDaniel was cast in over 300 films but given screen credit in about 80, most of which were roles as domestics. When criticized by the NAACP for playing such roles she said, “I could either get paid $100 a month as a real maid or $750 a week playing one in the movies!” Despite evidence that McDaniel had made a good living as a performer, her final estate was estimated at only $10,000.
Born Eric Marlon Bishop, Jamie Foxx had positioned himself as a TV star with his time spent on In Living Color and the success if his own sitcom, The Jamie Foxx Show. While he had memorable films on his acting resume, Foxx blew audiences away with his portrayal of singer Ray Charles in the 2004 biopic Ray, which earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Foxx is the second male in history to receive two acting Oscar nominations in the same year for two different movies, Collateral and the aforementioned Ray. The only other male actor to achieve this feat was Al Pacino. Foxx is now a Hollywood contender, pulling sizeable salaries like the $10 million payout he snagged for 2006′s Miami Vice. More recently he beat out actors Will Smith, Idris Elba, and Chris Tucker to win the coveted lead role of “Django” in director Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Western flick.
Known for his portrayals in Platoon, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and The Crying Game, Whitaker won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 2006’s The Last King of Scotland at the age of 45. After toiling for years in lesser roles on TV and film, Whitaker earned his spot as a powerful performer with an estimated net worth between $15 and $20 million. According to The Hollywood Reporter, TNT has put in script orders for five new dramas, including H.I.K.E., a police procedural being co-written by Whitaker and Law & Order: SVU scribe Amanda Green. The project will center on a female cop who runs the Home Invasion Kidnapping Enforcement (H.I.K.E.) team in Phoenix, AZ, which is the “kidnapping capital” of the U.S.
After Berry earned $2.5 million to join the cast of the sexy crime drama Swordfish, some wondered why the Hollywood leading lady would agree to a $600,000 paycheck to play a struggling wife and mother in the indie Monster’s Ball. The questions stopped once the Oscar buzz began and culminated with Berry taking home a gold statue in the Best Actress category. In the wake of the win, she’s continued to be a box office draw, produce projects and endorse products—including Revlon Cosmetics, which pays her $16 million a year—that bring her estimated work to about $70 million.
LOUIS GOSSETT, JR.
Gossett is best known for his role as Fiddler in the 1977 TV mini-series version of Alex Haley’s Roots; but it was his portrayal of Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film, An Officer and a Gentleman, that won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Over the course of the next 30 years, he’s continued to deliver powerful performances in films ranging from Jaws 3, Enemy Mine and Iron Eagle to Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls and Why Did I Get Married Too? In 2010, Gossett expanded his career as an accomplished actor to include best-selling author with the release of his autobiography, An Actor and a Gentleman.
Although Freeman was nominated for the Academy Award three times prior for his work in 1987’s Street Smart, 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy and 1994’s Shawshank Redemption, it wasn’t until 2004 that he actually walked away with the gold. At age 67, Freeman became the oldest African American to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Million Dollar Baby. Over the course of his near 50-year career, he’s appeared in critically acclaimed films like Glory, Lean on Me and both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the latter of which grossed over $1 billion worldwide. Freeman has also carved out a profitable niche as a voiceover actor, lending his recognizable voice to the 2005 War of the Worlds remake, 2011’s Conan the Barbarian and several documentaries.
She’s obviously the most successful American Idol contestant who didn’t win the talent show competition, having garnered an Academy Award for her first feature film debut as Effie in the 2006 film remake of Dreamgirls. She reportedly was paid $15,000,000 to play alongside Beyoncé in the film and has continued to make similar seven-figure+ deals. Her acting career continued to flourish, playing opposite Hollywood heavyweights Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex in the City 2 and Queen Latifah in The Secret Life of Bees. Her next roles include playing Winnie Mandela in Winnie and “Sister Rosemary” in this summer’s The Three Stooges, in addition to maintaining her lucrative deal as a spokesperson for Weight Watchers and authoring a book on her life and weight loss journey I Got This. Hudson is said to be worth over $18 million only six years after taking home the gold.