The 84th annual Academy Awards are on Sunday, and the world will be watching to see which actors and films take home Oscar gold. And sure, we’re interested to see who the winners will be, and curious about what all the leading ladies will be wearing, but today we decided to take a different look at the nominees. Rather than calculating odds on who’s likely to come out on top Sunday night, we researched the contenders to see who we think already qualifies as a winner: those who give to and work with charities. It was a tight race, but we narrowed it down, so behold, our top 10 most charitable Oscar nominees.
10. Kristen Wiig
Nominated for Best Original Screenplay for “Bridesmaids,” funny lady Kristen Wigg already has one big win under her belt — the “SNL” star was named PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian in 2011. The animal lover, who publicly stated that she would never wear fur, has also contributed to the animal-rights organization. As part of the Clinton Foundation Celebrity Division, Wigg also flexed her comedy muscles for a Funny or Die video about global warming, to both honor the foundation’s 10th anniversary, and to help raise money for its causes.
9. Martin Scorsese
Esteemed director Martin Scorsese, who scored nominations for Best Picture and Best Director for “Hugo,” does more for Hollywood than just make great films. Scorsese considers health and homelessness worthy causes, and has supported organizations such as HELP USA, the Los Angeles Free Clinic and the Michael J. Fox Foundation. He also lent his support to the David Lynch Foundation, which promotes the use of Transcendental Meditation to help children, the homeless and recovering veterans. In a message to the foundation, he said, “I wanted to offer my support and encouragement in these efforts to help children and veterans and anyone who needs help to overcome stress through meditation.”
8. Woody Allen
Scorsese’s not the only director with a conscience. Film great Woody Allen also counts homelessness as an important cause, and has donated to organizations that help both the needy and the hungry. Allen, another double nominee, for Best Director and Original Screenplay for “Midnight in Paris,” has supported St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters and the Doe Fund, which fights homelessness and addiction. Allen also appeared at this year’s amFAR AIDS Charity Gala, which raised $1.4 million for research on the disease.
7. Viola Davis
Leading Actress nominee (for “The Help”) Viola Davis once described her childhood as one of “abject poverty.” Now she works to help others in similar situations, supporting charities that help women and provide for the poor, such as Friendly House, a women’s rehabilitation organization, and Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity that collects and distributes shoes to the needy. In 2009, she hosted the Friendly House Luncheon, an annual event that raises money to help women fight addiction.
6. Jonah Hill
Jonah Hill may be best known for his funny films and comedic timing, but the actor has a serious side as well. The Supporting Actor nominee for “Moneyball” considers health and human rights top causes. In addition to working with the United Nations Foundation, he also actively supports Nothing But Nets, an organization that provides mosquito nets in Africa. In January, Hill participated in a fundraising competition to earn donations for the charity, and said of the organization, “I think that Nothing But Nets is doing a kick ass job at helping those suffering in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and other countries. Those in the Horn of Africa are already suffering due to the severe drought, famine and conflict in that region, but the leading cause of death right now is from malaria. A simple net that costs no more than a movie ticket could save thousands more from dying. It’s so simple, it’s stupid not to help.”
5. Glenn Close
Glenn Close, whose performance in “Albert Nobbs” garnered a nod for Best Actress, is involved with a number of charities. In addition to supporting organizations such as the ASPCA, St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters, and Peace Over Violence, she also co-founded Bring Change 2 Mind, which works to support those with mental illness. Close appeared in a PSA for the group, in which she gets right to the heart of the organization’s mission, stating, “One in six adults has a mental illness…Change a mind about mental illness, and you can change a life.” Additionally, in 2006, the Entertainment Industry Foundation named her ambassador to the “Key for the Cure” initiative, which raises funds to benefit women’s cancer research.
4. Meryl Streep
Best Actress nominee Meryl Streep (for “The Iron Lady”) actively supports causes such as hunger and poverty relief, disaster relief, the environment, human rights, and education. She is the national spokeswoman for the National Women’s History Museum, and often hosts events for the Museum, in addition to donating generously. Streep also filmed a PSA for Equality Now, which works to create equal rights for women around the world. In the video, she says, “I think the work of Equality Now is really, really important, because it advocates on behalf of women and girls who don’t have a voice in the world.”
3. Steven Spielberg
Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg has an impressive resume; he’s been the driving force behind many of the most successful movies of all time. But did you know that his charity work is equally prolific? Using his earnings from the Oscar-winning “Schindler’s List,” Spielberg established the Righteous Persons Foundation, which supports the Jewish community. In 1993, he was awarded The Order of the Smile by the children of Poland, for being a hero and role model, and he was also involved in the foundation of the Starlight Children’s Foundation, which aids children with life-threatening injuries and illnesses. In addition, has also lent his support to health and disaster-relief organizations. Spielberg’s film “War Horse” is a Best Picture nominee.
2. George Clooney
Hollywood hunk George Clooney has set plenty of hearts aflutter during his career. But it’s his own big heart that deserves recognition. A Best Actor nominee for his role in “The Descendants,” Clooney has long been an advocate for the refugees in Darfur, and helped to co-found Not on Our Watch, which works to stop the genocide in the Sudan. Not only has he personally visited the refugees, he also has ensured that millions from the foundation have aided the people of Darfur via the United Nations World Food Programme. Clooney also supports Bono‘s ONE Campaign, which fights poverty, and is on the Board of Trustees for the United Way. He lent his support to a telethon to aid victims of 9/11, and also supports causes dedicated to women, children, peace and the environment.
1. Brad Pitt
His partner Angelina Jolie is recognized as one of the most charitable stars in the world, but Brad Pitt gives more than his fair share, too. Not only did Pitt help co-found Not on Our Watch, with pal George Clooney and other stars, but the Best Actor nominee (for “Moneyball”) also co-founded the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which helps to fight poverty and protect the environment. Pitt is an advocate for environmental issues, and has partnered with the Global Green organization to work toward a sustainable future. He has also met with the president to discuss green initiatives, and even had a hand in building sustainable housing in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (work that eventually led to the actor starting The Make it Right Foundation). He has also worked with Doctors Without Borders to help refugees, and supports organizations that promote peace, fair trade, clean water and more. Pitt donates millions each year to charity; he donated $8 million in 2006 alone. In January 2011, he and Jolie gave $2M to an African Wildlife Sanctuary.
While not everyone on our list will take home a statue on Sunday, we think they’re already big winners, because in our books, a heart of gold trumps Oscar gold any day. Because hey, next year someone else will be taking their places on the nominee list, but no one can ever replace what these stars have done to help make the world a better place.
The Oscars air on Sunday on ABC at 7:00PM EST, and will be hosted by Billy Crystal. For a complete list of the 2012 nominees, click over to the Academy Awards website.