11 People Who Received Oscar Nods After They'd Died

Photo: Howell Conant/Paramount/REX/Shutterstock.
To see that Fences was nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category yesterday was no surprise; the Denzel Washington and Viola Davis vehicle is one of award season's biggest contenders. What is remarkable, however, is this: The man who wrote said screenplay is also the person who wrote the original play on which it is based. That man, August Wilson, died in 2005.

Some context: Fences, which already delivered Wilson a Pulitzer and a Tony in its play form, took years to develop for the screen because the late playwright insisted upon having a Black director. Washington, nominated for Best Actor in his lead role of Troy Maxson, finally stepped up to the plate, agreeing to both direct and star in the film version. Playwright Tony Kushner was brought on board to finesse Wilson's original script, but only Wilson is credited and, therefore, eligible for an Oscar win in that category.

It sounds unusual, and it is, but it's certainly not unheard of. Dozens of filmmakers, composers, writers, and costume designers have died before getting the call from the Academy. Actors, too, have earned posthumous (as in, after death) Oscar nominations, though only two have gone on to win. They're both Australian, and they're both men: Network star Peter Finch and The Dark Knight's Heath Ledger.

We'll have to wait until February 26 to see if the late Wilson wins an Oscar more than 11 years after his death. In the meantime, review our selection of notable people who have received posthumous Oscar nods.

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Photo: John Nordell/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images.
August Wilson
Should Wilson win in the Best Adapted Screenplay category on February 26, victory will come more than 11 years after his death. The Fences playwright died from liver cancer in October 2005.

Pictured: Wilson on August 31, 2005
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Photo: Howell Conant/Paramount/REX/Shutterstock.
Audrey Hepburn
The iconic actress died of cancer on January 20, 1993, just days after it was announced that she would receive the honorary Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in recognition of her work with UNICEF. Her son Sean Ferrer accepted the award on her behalf at the Oscars ceremony held that March.

Pictured: Hepburn in 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's
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Photo: Warner Bros/DC Comics/REX/Shutterstock.
Heath Ledger
The Australian actor died from a prescription drugs-triggered cardiac arrest on January 22, 2008. The Dark Knight was still being edited at the time, but would go on to fetch the late Ledger an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the Joker. His family accepted the award on his behalf.

Pictured: Ledger as the Joker
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Photo: SNAP/REX/Shutterstock.
James Dean
The Hollywood heartthrob earned not one, but two Best Actor nominations after his death in a car crash on September 30, 1955. He became the first actor to get a posthumous Oscar nod with 1955's East of Eden, followed by a nomination for Giant the next year.

Pictured: Dean in Giant
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Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
Peter Finch
The winner for Best Actor at the 1977 Academy Awards died of a heart attack two months before the ceremony, becoming the Oscars' first posthumous winner in an acting category; he was also the first Australian actor to win Best Actor. The Network star's award was accepted by his widow, Eletha, and the film's screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky.

Pictured: Finch in Network
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Photo: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock.
Bridget O'Connor
The British screenwriter, who co-wrote Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with husband Peter Straughan, died of cancer in 2010. In 2012, the duo would win a BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as earn a nomination in the same category at the Oscars. A dedication to O'Connor can be seen in the film's credits.

Pictured: Benedict Cumberbatch and Gary Oldham in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEI/REX/Shutterstock.
Sydney Pollack
The actor-director-producer lost his battle with cancer in May 2008, but still had a shot at Oscar glory when The Reader, which he produced, was nominated for Best Picture at the 2009 ceremony.

Pictured: Pollack in January 2007
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Photo: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock.
Anthony Minghella
Like Pollack, the late Minghella was nominated as a producer on The Reader. Famed for directing The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley, Minghella died of a hemorrhage in March 2008, nearly a year before the Oscars took place.

Pictured: Minghella in 2007
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Photo: Columbia/REX/Shutterstock.
Spencer Tracy
Tracy died of a heart attack less than three weeks after completing 1967's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. His performance in the film would go on to receive a Best Actor nod.

Pictured: Tracy with co-star Sidney Poitier
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Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
Walt Disney
The creator of "The Happiest Place on Earth" died from complications of lung cancer in December 1966. In 1969, however, he won an Oscar for Best Short Film (animated) for Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.

Pictured: Disney with his muse in an undated photo
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Photo: Cecchi Gori/Tiger/Canal +/REX/Shutterstock.
Massimo Troisi
Sadly, Troisi never got to see the film that would earn him a posthumous Best Actor nomination. The Italian star of Il Postino died of a heart attack in 1994, just hours after completing filming. He was 41.

Pictured: Troisi in Il Postino
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