How long is too long? If Glenn Close, as she is widely tipped to do, wins the best actress Oscar for her performance in 'The Wife' at the 91st Academy Awards, it will mark the end of a 37-year wait for the industry's top honor.
Close, who has been nominated six times previously, made a splash with her breakthrough role in 1982 in The World According to Garp, adapted from the John Irving novel. She was nominated for best supporting actress that year, but lost to Jessica Lange for 'Tootsie'.
If she does take the award, however, it will not be the longest wait in Oscar history. According to Guardian analysis, Henry Fonda had to wait for 43 years before finally winning the award for best actor, for 'On Golden Pond' in 1982. Though Fonda secured his first film role in 1935's 'The Farmer Takes a Wife', his breakthrough role (and starting point for Guardian's analysis) is considered to be the John Ford-directed 'Young Lincoln', from 1939. The female actor with the longest wait is Helen Mirren: Her Oscar for 'The Queen' in 2007 was 38 years after her role in the Michael Powell-directed 'The Age of Consent'.
If she wins, Close would be the third woman over the age of 70 to win best actress, following Jessica Tandy (who won in 1990 for 'Driving Miss Daisy' at the age of 80) and Katharine Hepburn, who is remarkable for winning three Oscars after her 60th birthday.
Close would also be the eighth actor to win for a leading role more than 30 years after their breakthrough performance. Along with Fonda and Mirren, Jeff Bridges had a longer wait, with a 39-year gap between 'The Last Picture Show' in 1971 and his 2010 Oscar win for 'Crazy Heart'.
The analysis, which looked at the 20 oldest winners in the best actor and best actress categories (excluding those who had won previously), found the average male actor had waited nearly 24 years after his breakthrough performance. For female actors, the average wait was significantly shorter at just under 18 years.
The gap can be explained by the fact that women tend to be much younger when they win. All the oldest male winners were over the age of 50, while just over half of their female counterparts were in this age category. If we look at all past Oscar winners, the age gap between men and women is marked. The average age of the best actor winner was 44, while the average for best actress was 36. Adrien Brody is the only best actor under 30, winning for his role in 'The Pianist' in 2002; by contrast, 32 actresses have won the equivalent prize in their 20s.
Supporting actor winners tend to be older for both genders, but female winners are still younger. In this category, the male average is 49, while the average female winner is 40.
However, as the Oscars age, so have the winners. Since 2010, best actresses had an average age of 41, up from 36 in the previous decade (2000-2009). The average age of best actors also saw a slight increase during this period, up to 45 from 43 in the previous decade.
The Guardian looked at the top 20 oldest best actor and best actress winners after 1950, excluding those who had won previously. The film team identified each actor's breakthrough role, and waiting times were calculated by subtracting the breakthrough year from the year award was received.