Robert Downey Jr. Becomes 1st ‘Saturday Night Live’ Cast Member to Win an Oscar

The “Oppenheimer” actor achieved a feat that has eluded such stars as Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd

Robert Downey Jr. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Robert Downey Jr.’s heralded turn as nefarious government official Lewis Strauss in “Oppenheimer” has won him an Oscar — finally. It’s a long awaited triumph following two previous nominations, for 1992’s “Chaplin” and 2008’s “Tropic Thunder.”

His win marks a major footnote in Oscar history: Downey is the first ever former “Saturday Night Live” cast member to ever take home cinema’s biggest honor. In 1985, a 20-year-old Downey was hired for the show’s most infamous and least nostalgically appreciated season (which also included Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Joan Cusack and the actor’s frequent costar Anthony Michael Hall). Most of them got pink-slipped the very next year due to poor notices and ratings.

Things worked out just fine for Downey, who booked star-making roles in movies like “Back to School,” “Less Than Zero,” and “Chances Are” before he eventually became the linchpin of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with “Iron Man.”

Other “SNL” alums have gotten close to Oscar gold but missed, including Eddie Murphy in 2006’s “Dreamgirls,” Dan Aykroyd in 1989 Best Picture winner “Driving Miss Daisy” and Kristen Wiig, nominated for Best Original Screenplay with pal Annie Mumolo for 2011’s “Bridesmaids.” Perhaps the closest anyone came to winning prior to Downey was Bill Murray, who won nearly every precursor leading actor award for 2003’s “Lost in Translation,” but missed out on the big night to Sean Penn in “Mystic River.”

And there are even more “SNL” alumni who’ve waltzed with Oscar: the aforementioned Cusack was nominated twice, for 1988’s “Working Girl” and 1997’s “In & Out;” Randy Quaid (also a member the 1985-86 season) was nominated for 1973’s “The Last Detail;” and Michael McKean shared a songwriting nod with wife Annette O’Toole for their memorable contribution to 2003’s “A Mighty Wind,” the folk-flavored “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow.”

Not one to rest on his laurels, Downey is already becoming a favorite for the Emmys for his upcoming role as a shifty master of disguise in Park Chan-wook‘s long-awaited HBO miniseries “The Sympathizer.”


3 responses to “Robert Downey Jr. Becomes 1st ‘Saturday Night Live’ Cast Member to Win an Oscar”

  1. Andrew Avatar

    RDJ won BEST ACTOR in 1993 for CHAPLIN!

    1. Andrew Avatar

      I think I had a Mandala effect moment, Al Pacino won in an upset for Scent of a Woman. My apologies…

  2. Latrell Avatar

    Julia Louis-Dreyfus was not part of the same cast as Downey Jr. She was there for the three years prior.

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