Mississippi and the Oscars: A Rich History

This year’s Academy Awards, which will be broadcast Sunday, March 27, features two Mississippi-related hopefuls.

Aunjanue Ellis, who grew up in McComb, is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “King Richard.” And “The Queen of Basketball,” which is up for the Best Documentary Short Subject prize, tells the story of Minter City native Lusia Harris, the first and only woman drafted into the NBA.

They aren’t the first Mississippians, or Mississippi-related and shot-in-Mississippi films to receive nominations, however. Here’s an overview of Mississippi representation at the Oscars through the years.


 Columbus native playwright Tennessee Williams’ screenplay for his own “A Streetcar Named Desire” was nominated for Best Writing (Screenplay). In total, the film received 11 nominations, including Best Picture, and took home statues for Supporting Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress and Art Direction.


“Show Boat”

“Show Boat,” which was partially shot in Natchez, received two nominations, for Best Cinematography (Color) and Best Music (Scoring of a Motion Picture).


Wiggins native Herschel McCoy received his first Oscar nod for Best Costume Design – Color for “Quo Vadis,” and in 1954 earned his second for Best Costume Design – Black and White for “Dream Wife.”


“Baby Doll,” which features parts filmed in Benoit, netted Tennessee Williams his second nomination for Best Writing (Screenplay, Adapted). It was also nominated for Best Cinematography (Black and White), Best Actress (Carroll Baker) and Best Supporting Actress (Mildred Dunnock).


“Raintree County,” filmed partially in Natchez, was nominated for four awards, including Best Actress (Elizabeth Taylor), Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Best Costume Design and Best Music – Scoring.


“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” based on Williams’ play of the same name, was nominated for six Oscars, but this time Williams did not pen the screenplay based on his work.


Greenville native Jim Henson earned a Best Short Subject – Live Action nomination for “Time Piece,” an experimental short film he directed before he created his iconic Muppets.


Vicksburg native Beah Richards is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”


“The Reivers”

“The Reivers,” which was filmed in Carrollton and Greenwood and based on the novel by Oxford’s William Faulkner, received two nominations for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Rupert Crosse) and Best Music – Original Score.


Arkabutla native James Earl Jones received the lone Oscar nomination of his illustrious career for Best Actor in “The Great White Hope.”


Meridian native Diane Ladd received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”


Oprah Winfrey, a native of Kosciusko, was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “The Color Purple,” while Eric Roberts, who was born in Biloxi, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Runaway Train.”


Jackson native playwright Beth Henley was nominated for the screenplay for Writing – Screenplay Based on Another Medium for “Crimes of the Heart,” based on her stage play.


“Mississippi Burning”

“Mississippi Burning,” which was filmed in several locations around the state, won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, and garnered six others for Best Actor (Gene Hackman), Best Supporting Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Director (Alan Parker), Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Picture.


Charleston native Morgan Freeman receives his first Oscar nomination for his role in “Driving Miss Daisy.” And Lawrence Gordon and his brother Charles, who were raised in Belzoni, both served as producers on the Best Picture-nominated “Field of Dreams.”


Meridian native Diane Ladd received her second Best Supporting Actress nomination for “Wild at Heart.” The film was partially shot in Mississippi.


Writer Thomas Harris grew up in Rich, and the film based on his novel “The Silence of the Lambs” cleaned up at the Oscars. The film took home Best Picture, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster), Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Writing (Ted Tally) and was nominated for Best Film Editing and Best Sound.


Morgan Freeman received his second Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his role in “The Shawshank Redemption.”


“Ghosts of Mississippi,” which was shot in Greenwood, Natchez, Yazoo City and Jackson, received two nominations: Best Supporting Actor (James Woods) and Best Makeup.


“The Insider,” which was partially shot in Pascagoula, was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Russell Crowe), Best Director (Michael Mann), Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Sound.


“O Brother Where Art Thou?”

“O Brother Where Art Thou?”, which was shot at various locations around the state, received nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography.


“Two Soldiers,” based on a Faulkner short story, won the Best Short Film – Live Action Oscar.


Morgan Freeman earned his first Oscar win and third nomination as Best Supporting Actor for “Million Dollar Baby.”


Natchez native Glen Ballard was nominated for Best Original Song for “Believe” from “The Polar Express.”


Morgan Freeman received his fourth nomination, this time for Best Actor in “Invictus.”


Mississippi native Buck Sanders was nominated for Best Original Score for “The Hurt Locker.”


“The Help”

“The Help” was filmed in Natchez and Greenwood, directed by Jackson native Tate Taylor and based on the book by Jackson native Kathryn Stockett. Octavia Spencer won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the film, which was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress (Viola Davis) and Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain). Also at the ceremony, Oprah Winfrey was given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, while James Earl Jones received an Honorary Award “for his legacy of consistent excellence and uncommon versatility.” Lastly, the Oscar winner for Best Short Film – Animated, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” was produced by McComb native Lampton Enochs.


Guy Williams, a visual effects supervisor, received his first nomination for Best Achievement in Visual Effects for “The Avengers.” A native of Greenwood and graduate of Mississippi State University, he would also receive nominations in the category in 2014 (“Iron Man 3”) and 2018 (“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”).


Oprah Winfrey served as a producer for the Best Picture-nominated “Selma.”


The Academy issued an Honorary Award to Vicksburg native director Charles Burnett, “a resolutely independent and influential film pioneer who has chronicled the lives of black Americans with eloquence and insight.”


Mia Neal, an alumna of Jackson State University, received the Best Makeup and Hairstyling award for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”