Claim: Marisa Tomei was awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1993 because Oscar presenter Jack Palance read the wrong name by mistake.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, January 2009]
Marisa Tomei’s Oscar victory in 1992 proved a dramatic turning point in her career, but not in the traditional sense. Few in the entertainment industry had anticipated that she would win the award, given her relative inexperience, and she did not reap the rewards that most Academy Award winners enjoy. Vicious gossip circulated suggesting that presenter Jack Palance had misread the envelope and mistakenly given the Oscar to Marisa, rather than its rightful owner Vanessa Redgrave for her performance in Howard’s End.
Origins: There was perhaps no darker horse in the 1993 Academy Awards race than actress Marisa Tomei. Nominated in the Best Actress in a Supporting Role category, she was a relative newcomer to feature films who was matched up against veteran
actresses such as Joan Plowright and Vanessa Redgrave. Moreover, while her competition had appeared in such august fare as
So, not long after Tomei unexpectedly claimed the Oscar for best supporting actress, rumors began to circulate that it was all a mistake: The “real” winner was supposed to have been Vanessa Redgrave, but presenter Jack Palance had erroneously called out the wrong name because he was unable to read the printing on the card inside the envelope, became confused, or was too “drunk” or “stoned” to announce the winner properly. (Different versions of the rumor claimed that Palance had either arbitrarily announced Marisa Tomei as the winner or had called out her name because it fell last in the list of nominees and therefore was the only one that had not yet scrolled off the teleprompter screen.) Then, once the mistake had been made, the Academy had no choice but to award the Oscar to the person whom Palance had just announced as the winner to a global television audience; to do otherwise would have created an embarrassing controversy.
However, video of that year’s Academy Award telecast showed nothing of the sort had taken place. Jack Palance plainly read Marisa Tomei’s name off the card in the envelope in front of him; he was neither ad-libbing nor looking at the teleprompter when he announced her as the winner:
Moreover, nothing about these rumored scenarios could possibly have been true. As the Academy has explained many times, two officials from the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse (the official tabulators of the Academy Award ballots) have been stationed in the wings at every Academy Awards ceremony since 1953 just in case such a situation should arise. If a wrong name were ever read, one of the officials would immediately step up to the podium and announce the correct winner.
Additionally, Palance simply could not have read the wrong name from the teleprompter screen, because the winners’ names are never displayed there: during every “And the Oscar goes
In early 1994 this rumor was being spread, according to the Hollywood Reporter, by an unnamed “former son-in-law of a distinguished Academy Award winner.” By 1997 film critic Rex Reed (promulgator of the theory that Palance was “drunk” or “stoned”) was espousing on television his claim that a “massive
Last updated: 3 March 2014
Ebert, Roger. “Answer Man.” Chicago Sun-Times. 15 June 1997 (p. 5). Sheehan, David. “For Outstanding Achievement in the Art of Oscar Rumors . . .” The Orange County Register. 29 March 1994 (p. F2). The Hollywood Reporter. “And the Loser Is: Bad Oscar Rumor.” 22 March 1994. [Worcester] Telegram & Gazette. “Maybe Some Oscars Should Be Conditional.” 1 May 1997 (p. C2).