Current Oscar nominees who have played reel librarians

Will any of these former reel librarians win an Oscar this year?

The nominations for this year’s Academy Awards were announced back in early February. When I read the list of nominations, I noted that several of the acting nominees have played reel librarian characters in past films. And thus, an idea for a post was born! 😉 Will any of these former reel librarians win an Oscar this year? The Academy Awards telecast is scheduled for this Sunday, March 27, 2022.

Oscar academy award with Oscars 2022 text on red background” graphic by Jernej Furman via Flickr, CC BY 2.0 license

Aunjanue Ellis

Current Oscar nomination:

Aunjanue Ellis is a Best Supporting Actress nominee for King Richard (2021). In King Richard, Aunjanue Ellis portrays Oracene Price, the real-life mother and coach of tennis icons Venus Williams and Serena Williams. This is Ellis’s first nomination for an Academy Award.

Past reel librarian role:

Aunjanue Ellis played reel librarian Jo in Men of Honor (2000), a movie based on the true story of Carl Brashear, the first Black American U.S. Navy diver (Cuba Gooding, Jr.). Carl goes to the local library for tutoring assistance, and Jo, a library assistant, helps him. She reveals that she is working at the library until she can get into medical school.

There is also a good woman in Brashear’s life: Jo (Aunjanue Ellis), the Harlem librarian who tutors him in reading when he has trouble with written exams.

Roger Ebert, “Reviews: Men of Honor,”, 10 Nov. 2000
Men of Honor Because They Said I Couldn’t Have It” video, uploaded by Jonathan F., Standard YouTube License

Related post: 5 movies featuring Black reel librarians in major roles

Judi Dench

Current Oscar nomination:

Judi Dench is nominated this year for Best Supporting Actress for Belfast (2021). In Belfast, Judi Dench plays the grandmother to a young boy, Buddy, and the film centers on Buddy’s family and childhood in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1969, at the beginning of “The Troubles.” This is Dench’s 8th nomination for an Academy Award, and she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Shakespeare in Love (1998).

Past reel librarian roles:

Judi Dench has played not one, but TWO reel librarian roles!

In Red Joan (2018), Judi Dench played the title role of Joan Stanley, a librarian who is arrested and suspected of being a spy! The film is based on the novel by Jennie Rooney, and the plot is inspired by the life of Melita Norwood, a British civil servant who was a spy for the KGB.

Our first shot of Joan Stanley (Judi Dench) in “Red Joan” is inauspicious enough. A librarian in a cozy cardigan, she’s pruning roses outside her small, neatly kept row house in a London suburb. But then there’s a knock at the door. And a charge of treason.

Elizabeth Weitzman, “‘Red Joan’ Review: Not Enough Drama, or Enough Judi Dench, in British Spy Story,” The Wrap, 18 April 2019
Red Joan ft. Judi Dench – Official Trailer I HD I IFC Films” video uploaded by
IFC Films, Standard YouTube License

In Wetherby (1985), Judi Dench played Marcia Pilborough, a thoroughly unpleasant Deputy Librarian at the British Library Lending Library, who informs a young scholar (Tim McInnerny) that they do not lend books except under special circumstances.

Related post: Dishonorable Mention

Javier Bardem

Current Oscar nomination:

Javier Bardem is nominated this year for Best Lead Actor for Being the Ricardos (2021), portraying real-life comic icon Desi Arnaz. This is Bardem’s 4th nomination for an Academy Award, and he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for No Country for Old Men (2007).

The casting of a European actor (Bardem) as a Cuban-American (Arnaz) has caused controversy and criticism. And it’s not the first time this has happened!

The Spanish actor Javier Bardem, in charge of playing Desi Arnaz, is a casting error. […] It is paradoxical that Bardem plays, for the second time in his successful career, a famous Cuban. At the first opportunity he achieved that plausible portrait of the long-suffering and anti-Castro writer Reinaldo Arenas, in the film Before Night Falls. [translated into English]

Alejandro Rios, “Being the Ricardos y la historia de Desi Arnaz, un cubano cosmopolita” [“Being the Ricardos and the story of Desi Arnaz, a cosmopolitan Cuban”], CubaNet, 19 Dec. 2021.

Past reel librarian role:

Javier Bardem also portrayed Reinaldo Arenas in Before Night Falls (2000) — and bagged another Best Actor Oscar nomination for this portrayal! Based on Arenas’s memoir, Before Night Falls focuses on his life as a gay man and a writer and his struggles against the Cuban revolution and government censorship of his writings. As a young man, Arenas enters a young writers contest sponsored by the National Library — the prize is a job at the Library!

Before Night Falls (2000) Official Trailer – Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp Movie” video, uploaded by Movieclips Classic Trailers, Standard YouTube License

Related post: Oscar-nominated reel librarians ; Reel librarians in political-themed films

Sources used


Author: Jennifer

Librarian, blogger, movie lover

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