You don’t need an Oscar-winning actor to make a successful book trailer…but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Believe it or not, some artists that have been blessed by the Academy are willing to stoop so low as to star in a book trailer, of all things. Well, get this. The format is so legit that even folks from the establishment are jumping on board and it’s not even weird. Well, sometimes it is. Speaking of weird, the 93rd Academy Awards airs Monday April 25th and will be the first-ever Oscars ceremony with no in-person attendance. Sadly, there will be no reporters on the red carpet asking stars, “Who designed your mask?” In light of the upcoming awards season, here’s an interesting little list of 10 book trailers starring Oscar winners (or noms). Some of them are quite surprising.
1. ‘The Whipping Club’ by Deborah Henry
Eric Roberts stars in the trailer for this heavy book about an Irish-Catholic mother giving up her half-Jewish child. Not only was Roberts Oscar-nominated for his performance in Runaway Train, but he’s also been nominated for three Golden Globes. Roberts is highly decorated, but his greatest achievement may be how insanely prolific he is. He was in fifty-three movies and TV episodes released last year, with almost as many coming out in 2021. See him as an Irish priest in this Film 14 produced book trailer directed by Adam Cushman.
2. ‘You Had Me At Woof’ by Julie Klam
You’ve seen Timothy Hutton countless times in smaller roles since winning an Oscar for 1980’s Ordinary People at age twenty. Tim Hutton is one of those actors that pop up all over, though you may not know his name. In 2011 he appeared in this trailer for Julie Klam’s book about searching for love and finding a dog. Watch Hutton spoof himself in the trailer below.
3. ‘Russian Tattoo’ by Elena Gorokhova
F. Murray Abraham won an Oscar for his performance in Amadeus and has since appeared in classics galore. Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, Gus Van Sant’s Finding Forrester, De Palma’s Scarface, and Sidney Lumet’s Serpico have all been enriched by his presence. Here he plays an immigration official threatening to deport author Elena Gorokhova in this comedic promo for her memoir.
4. ‘Choose Your Own Autobiography’ by Neil Patrick Harris
This book trailer stars a former Oscar’s host who also happens to be the author. Neil Patrick Harris hosted the now infamous 2015 Academy Awards, celebrating in his words, “Hollywood’s best and whitest…I mean brightest.” All Oscars awarded that year went to white people, as well as the following year, sparking the viral hashtag #oscarssowhite. Here he is in a book trailer promoting his autobiography.
5. ‘The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel’ by Matt Zoller Seitz
Wes Anderson has been nominated for a host of Oscars, but unfortunately, this modern auteur has yet to get his hands on one. The Wes Anderson Collection by cultural critic Matt Zoller Seitz chronicles the making of Anderson’s first seven films via a series of interviews with the director and cast members. The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel is Zoller’s follow-up to the original collection, which was published before Anderson’s eighth film came out. This animated book trailer is done in Anderson’s signature quirky style and is definitely worth a watch.
6. ‘Sulwe’ by Lupita Nyong’o
Here’s a book that was written by an Oscar winner! In 2014, Lupita Nyong’o took home a Best Supporting Actress statuette for her role in 12 Years A Slave, making her the first Kenyan actress to win the award. Now she’s the author of a children’s book with a powerful message. Sulwe seeks to educate children about colorism, self-esteem, and the message that “true beauty radiates from within.” Illustrated by writer and filmmaker Vashti Harrison, Sulwe hit shelves via Simon Kids early last year to critical acclaim.
7. ‘Super Sad True Love Story’ by Gary Shteyngart
Paul Giamatti secured an academy award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 2006 for his role as a hard-nosed, depression-era boxing coach in Cinderella Man. In the super sad book trailer for Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, Giamatti and the author play themselves as sloppy twenty-something roommates. Hoping to get laid by a couple of “cougars” the two agree to accept an invitation Gary receives in the mail to attend a Brooklyn Heights book club. This funny, self-effacing trailer plays like an episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and will surely put a smile on your face.
8. ‘Little Failure’ by Gary Shteyngart
Shteyngart is back with another famous friend, who also happens to have been nominated for an Oscar, with the trailer for his memoir Little Failure. James Franco co-stars in the book trailer as Shteyngart’s husband, consoling the author after he learns his publisher, Random House, wants to call his book Little Failure. For part of the book trailer, the two are wearing only pink bathrobes and even share an onscreen kiss together. Franco was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in 2011 for his starring role in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. Just a few short years later, he’s in Gary Shteyngart’s book trailer smooching on the author. This one is hot, check it out.
9. ‘The One And Only Bob’ by Katherine Applegate
Did you know Danny DeVito received a Best Picture nomination in 2001 as the producer of the film Erin Brockovich starring Julia Roberts? Not many people do. DeVito has had an interesting career to say the least. DeVito hit national prominence with his role on the late 70s and early 80s TV show Taxi. More recent audiences associate the actor with his role on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. DeVito narrates the animated book trailer The One And Only Bob by Katherine Applegate, which was turned into a feature film now available on Disney Plus called, The One And Only Ivan.
10. ‘The Shock Doctrine’ by Naomi Klein
Wow, here’s a poignant heavy-hitter. The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein highlights how capitalist governments use “the shock doctrine” on entire populations to strip citizens of their rights. The shock doctrine is used by the CIA to extract confessions from prisoners and by leaders to coerce the citizenry into submission. This eerie book trailer is a short documentary by Alfonso Cuaron, a director who has more Oscar wins and nominations than he knows what to do with. Mexico City native Cuaron is one of those artists who takes the establishment to task from within the establishment itself. Cuaron is responsible for movies with a message like Children Of Men, Gravity, and Roma, all of which have been Oscar-nominated, with the latter two scoring multiple wins.
Patrick Salway is a writer, musician, and actor living in Los Angeles. Follow him on social media @blone_noble and @veneer_publications. Listen to VENEER.
If you enjoyed this piece, check out 21 Short Films Based on Short Stories.
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