Though they faced delays due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 94th Academy Awards took place on Sunday, March 27. The awards show returned to the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood and Highland after moving to Los Angeles’s Union Station last year for a smaller, more intimate event, also as a result of the pandemic. New Jerseyans had much to be proud of this year, as well. Two New Jersey natives were nominated for their work in the film industry at the 2022 Academy Awards.
Kirsten Dunst received the Actress in a Supporting Role nomination for her star turn in Power of the Dog. Dunst, who is also known for roles in Jumanji, Bring It On and The Beguiled, was born in Point Pleasant back in 1982. She lived in Brick Township, attending Ranney School in Tinton Falls before moving to Los Angeles as a young teenager to pursue her acting career.
This was the first nomination for the 39-year-old actress, though she has been working in Hollywood since she was 3 years old. Making her nomination even more special for Dunst, her husband, Jesse Plemons, was also nominated for his first Academy Award this year. Plemons and Dunst were co-stars in Power of the Dog, which earned Plemons the nod for Actor in a Supporting Role. While neither ultimately took home the statue, it was surely a night to remember for the New Jersey native and her husband.
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Another prominent New Jerseyan saw her work recognized at the Oscars this year. Rachel Zegler, who starred as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, was born in Hackensack in 2000. Though she didn’t secure an acting nod for her work in the film, West Side Story received seven nominations this year, including the biggest award of the night—Best Picture.
West Side Story was Zegler’s big breakout role. She snagged the major role when she was still a student at Immaculate Conception High School in Lodi. Raised in Clifton, she also attended St. Philip the Apostle Preparatory School.
Zegler’s name was in the headlines in the lead-up to the show as she revealed she didn’t initially receive an invite from the Academy, despite being the lead role in a multi-nominated film. Her admission quickly went viral, resulting in widespread criticism of the Academy online.
“Idk y’all i have tried it all but it doesn’t seem to be happening…I will root for west side story from my couch and be proud of the work we so tirelessly did 3 years ago,” she candidly wrote on social media. “I hope some last minute miracle occurs and I can celebrate our film in person but hey, that’s how it goes sometimes, I guess. Thanks for all the shock and outrage – I’m disappointed too. But That’s okay. So proud of our movie.”
Ultimately, the Academy invited Zegler to attend the prestigious awards ceremony as a presenter. The 20-year-old actress accepted the invitation and presented the Oscar for Achievement in Visual Effects alongside Euphoria star Jacob Elordi.
Like her fellow New Jerseyan and nominee Dunst, Zegler’s film, West Side Story, ultimately did not snag its big award of Best Picture. Zegler did, however, get to cheer on her co-star, Ariana DeBose, who took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work as Anita in the film.