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That night, at the 65th Academy Awards, a young underdog with a handful of bit roles in movies, one soap opera, and one sitcom under her belt beat out her four fellow nominees in the Actress in a Supporting Role category—for a role in a comedy. On the way up the stairs to the podium, she nearly tripped.
It was a bad omen. Within a year, her fairytale night had been overtaken by fiction: It started, ironically, as a correction. A rumor is currently making the rounds in Manhattan, fanned by no less than the former son-in-law of a distinguished Academy Award winner, to wit that last year Marisa Tomei received her Oscar statue by error, with a resultant scandal about it soon to be exposed, much to the shame of the Academy.
All of this quite erroneous, I hasten to add, but do read on.
And for a good reason: When the Oscar ceremonies first went public on television back in , Academy officials were aware of the possibility that one day some presenter might make such an error, either accidentally or for some mischievous purpose. In the event a presenter should err in naming the correct winner in any category, said P-W official has been instructed to immediately go to the podium and announce that a mistake had been made.
So Marisa, stand assured that Oscar is adamantly yours, no matter what rumor may sayeth to the contrary. Virtually every item that has been written about this theory its snopes entry , for example names the Hollywood Reporter item as its printed origin. It only spread from there—in the April 8, issue of Entertainment Weekly, the rumor crossed over from the trades to a consumer rag with a much wider circulation. As the rumor goes, award presenter Jack Palance inadvertently read the name of the final nominee off the TelePrompTer, instead of the name in the envelope.
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During the opening monologue of the Oct. Before we start, I wanted to say something, just wanted to clear the air. Teenage America, thank you, back in , the year it was hosted by Jack Palance. Anyway, the only award I ever felt slightly guilty about was when I was 16 and I was named Employee of the Month at Roy Rogers restaurant by the assistant manager, Jack Palance.
Maybe it was selective exposure , the psychological theory that people will believe what they want to believe, regardless of the actual information being communicated. When I thought back to this rumor, I remembered that Entertainment Weekly printed it—I did not remember that EW ran it in the form of a correction.
That such a fuck-up could occur and be allowed to stand is a tantalizing prospect.
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Can you blame them? She was a dark horse newcomer nominated for a comedy that was by then over a year old. If any presenter at the Oscars could be called unreliable, it was Palance.
Just believable enough to be spread, spread just enough to take hold, it was the kind of Hollywood rumor that would be impossible to kill. What makes the rumor particularly fascinating in retrospect is that it occurred before the rise of instant video online. If Tomei had won this year, there would never have been a question about the integrity of her Oscar—just a few keystrokes would allow you to disprove the story to all but the blind and very dumb.
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If nothing else, the Tomei rumor will go down as one of the last great Hollywood conspiracy theories of the pre-internet era.
Worse than the whispers was the actual direction of her career. But no one wants to peak that early. Soon enough, it got bigger.
Tomei was allowed to reclaim her story. That Marisa Tomei ended up doing pretty well for herself. Out of all of the movies nominated in her category, My Cousin Vinny is the only one that remains relevant today through cable and broadcast reruns thanks to it being, you know, entirely enjoyable.
Playing a broad comic part with depth and nuance is a difficult feat, and Tomei nailed it. She earned her Oscar just as much as Vinny earned that acquittal. To see additional replies that are pending approval, click Show Pending. These may contain graphic material.