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Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

And the Oscar winner is most likely to look like this...

The Best Actor and Actress nominees are perfecting their gracious smiles for Sunday's Academy Awards. At the risk of taking some of the suspense out of the envelope opening, the Magazine has done some number crunching on what type of winner usually takes home the golden statuette.


Bets are being laid and predictions made as to who will gratefully clutch an Oscar to their chest and who will remain sitting in the audience, mentally tearing up their thank you speech.

Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and
We also trawled photo archives and other online sources
Genre, age and nationality: IMDB and actors' websites
Height: Mainly IMDB, and average from NHS Information Service 2008 figures - 5ft 8 (men) and 5ft 4 (women)
Eye and hair colour: IMDB, actors' websites, image research and archive footage
But hair colour is the hardest characteristic to verify, given how easily this can be changed

But can a study of best actor and actress winners over the past 81 years cast light on how a nominee's age, appearance and genre of film might affect their chances? We trawled the internet for past winners' vital statistics.

The average age of Best Actor winners is 44, almost 10 years older than the average for female winners at 36 years of age. The gender gap widens when you look at the proportion of winners aged over 40 - 63% for men, whereas only 26% of winning women in the leading role category have passed the big four-zero.

Of this year's nominees, three of the five actresses in the running are over 40 - Sandra Bullock (45), Meryl Streep (60) and Dame Helen Mirren (65).

Carey Mulligan in many ways fits the profile for the average winner of the Best Actress award in that she is young, light haired and nominated for a romantic role in An Education. But she is British, and the Academy tends to vote for Americans.

Oscars Graphic

However, once US actors and actresses are taken out of the equation, British thespians fare better than all other nationalities combined, with 20% of male winners and 18% of female winners hailing from the UK.

Perhaps this may clear the way for New Yorker Gabourey Sidibe, nominated at 26 for her role in Precious. But she is African-American, and only one non-white woman has picked up the Best Actress gong in the award's history - Halle Berry, for the equally gritty Monster's Ball. For male winners, 93% have been white.

While the Academy tends to favour younger women, for men the same does not hold true. Younger actors are under-represented, with Adrien Brody being the only leading male winner aged under 30 - he was 29 when he picked up his Oscar for The Pianist. But 27 women have picked up the Best Actress gong while in their 20s - that's 33% of the female winning contingent.

Of this year's male nominees, the youngest is Jeremy Renner at 39, followed by George Clooney, 48, and Colin Firth, 49. Jeff Bridges is 60 and Morgan Freeman is 72. If he wins for his role as Nelson Mandela in Invictus, this will provide a fillip for not only the proportion of non-white winners, but for the grey-haired as well.

While 11% of men have accepted an Oscar as silver foxes, only 4% of winning women have stood on the podium with silvery locks.

As for the type of film which dominates, one genre tops the list for both sexes - 49% of female winners and 28% of male winners starred in romance films. Women who act in thrillers are generally well received by the Academy's voters, as are men who take the lead in war films.

But who knows which way the Academy will jump this time around? Picking winners is an inexact science. Any wager laid on likely winners is entirely at your own risk.

Compiled by Elena Egawhary.

Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

I'd be interested to see the weight distribution on that bunch of data.
David MaMatt, London

Another sure-fire winner is to play a character with physical, mental or auditory/visual disabilities - especially if you're not disabled yourself (Marlee Matlin being the very honourable exception). You get voted in out of sheer thanksgiving that the voters aren't disabled themselves.
Jane, Wincanton

It always looks bad when a film like The Last Emperor cleaned up on Oscars but then its Asian male lead did not get best actor. Bias rules the Oscars and always will. So sad and the reason I will not watch the awards. And also forget winning if you are in a comedy.
Robin Bray, Charlotte, NC, US

I'm a 44 year old male of above average height with dark brown hair. It's seems the primary reasons I've not even being nominated for an Academy Award this year are my blue eyes, lack of American nationality, and the fact I've not been in a romantic film. Seems a bit random to me.
James Rigby, Wickford, Essex

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