Scorsese, Other Stars Who Waited Years for Oscar

By all accounts, Jeff Bridges is likely to take home Sunday's best-actor statue—not necessarily because his Crazy Heart performance was the best of his career, but because It Is High Time. It Is His Turn. Bridges has been nominated four times over the last 40 years, and it can't hurt that he's one of Hollywood's most eminently likable guys (antonym: Rourke, Mickey). In premature honor of a presumed (and deserved) Bridges win, here's a look at five more legendary actors, actresses, and directors who earned Oscars not necessarily for their best work, but for the work that finally broke the Academy's back. (Who did we miss? Tell us in the comments.)

John Wayne: best actor, True Grit . Wayne's time finally came in 1969, when he won for his portrayal of one-eyed Rooster Cogburn in the classic Western, one of his more whimsical performances. But it was a controversial victory, seen as the ultimate manifestation of a self-correcting Academy. Wayne's nearly 50 prior years of dramatic work had gone largely ignored—he was nominated just twice. The long delay prompted him to utter one of the great lines in acceptance-speech history, "If I'd known this, I'd have put that eyepatch on 40 years ago." But waiting a few more years to bestow the award might have helped the Academy seem more on the mark: in 1976 the actor concluded his long film career with one of his best roles, in The Shootist. As he died both on screen and off, it was a mournful farewell from one of the greats of the silver screen.

Kate Winslet: best actress,The Reader. When Winslet received an Oscar nomination for her turn as Hanna Schmitz, the illiterate former Nazi guard she played in The Reader, it was her sixth time in the running. She was just 33, making her the youngest actor ever to receive that many Academy nods. After she won Golden Globes for both lead and supporting actress (for The Reader and Revolutionary Road, respectively), her bid for the long-elusive best-actress Oscar was a near certainty. It was her time to shine, and she won handily.

Martin Scorsese: best director, The Departed. On the set of Raging Bull, the first film for which Scorsese was handed a directing nomination, a young Marty sported a head of thick, dark hair, a beard, and a faded Clash T shirt. By the time he won, in 2007, he ascended the stage in a tux and with a snow-white side part. His win is one of the ultimate "finally"s. He'd been nominated for a total of eight Oscars before he won for The Departed—six times for best director and twice for best adapted screenplay. Fellow veteran directors Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg co-presented his award, doling out big bear hugs. The first words of the honoree's speech: "Couldya check the envelope?"

Bette Davis: best actress, Dangerous. As one of Hollywood's biggest-ever stars, Davis found herself past due very early in her career. The actress starred in 1934's Of Human Bondage as a grubby, emotionally volatile tearoom waitress named Mildred Rogers. The gritty role was the first of its kind for the actress, and when she wasn't nominated, legend has it that a massive write-in campaign ensued. The Academy felt it owed her the next year, and gave her the statue for her work in Dangerous.

Al Pacino: best actor, Scent of a Woman. Pacino had to wait a lot longer than Davis's one year for his turn to come. The brooding, sunken-eyed actor, considered one of the all-time greats, broke out in the late 1960s and landed his first major role with 1972's The Godfather. But while his costars in the Godfather movies, Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro, won Oscars for their roles, Pacino was ignored for his bravura turn as main character Michael Corleone. The glossing-over continued: though nominated eight times through the 1970s, '80s, and early '90s, Pacino couldn't seal the deal—not for Serpico,Dog Day Afternoon, or And Justice for All. It wasn't until the 1993 awards, when Pacino was nominated for Scent of a Woman and Glengarry Glen Ross (for actor and supporting actor, respectively), that the Academy finally relented, giving him the best-actor statue.