The short answer? Yes.
It’s happened quite a bit, actually. In all but three of the last 14 years we’ve had at least one name announced on Oscar nomination morning that didn’t land any major precursor, those precursors being Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA. While we still have BAFTA to announce their nominations (January 9th) we can start to paint a picture of possible candidates for this hat trick.
Here are the folks who got an Oscar nomination without any precursor support.
Shohreh Aghdashloo – House of Sand and Fog
Djimon Hounsou – In America
Clint Eastwood – Million Dollar Baby
William Hurt – A History of Violence
Tommy Lee Jones – In the Valley of Elah
Laura Linney – The Savages
Michael Shannon – Revolutionary Road
Maggie Gyllenhaal – Crazy Heart
Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook
Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street
Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
Laura Dern – Wild
A handful of these come with built-in explanations: for very late December releases like The Wolf of Wall Street and American Sniper, strong box office and nominations elsewhere got them a spot even over contenders who hit every precursor (Cooper over Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, for example). Some were supporting performances that coattailed in with their leads who ended up winning, like Jacki Weaver and Maggie Gyllenhaal. William Hurt was a previous Oscar winner and his performance in A History of Violence earned him major critics’ wins (including NYFCC and LAFCA) but he didn’t register until Oscar. Tommy Lee Jones, also a previous winner, popped up. Then there are the unexplainables like Laura Linney in The Savages. While she was a previous nominee, there wasn’t much on the radar to call this surprise nom. Clint Eastwood leapfrogging over Paul Giamatti will always be one for the books (although I did call that at the time).
So who do we have this year that could fit that bill? It’s possible that no one does. Two of those three years of it not happening were the last two in a row. But since this year’s Oscars are a week later than usual that could give more time for Academy voters to see more films and offer us a surprise choice.
If Best Actress wasn’t so stacked I’d give Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread) a shot here. If she had been frauded into Supporting I’d actually predict her. With Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) still the frontrunner in Best Actor and the film looking like a strong box office success, we could see Ben Mendelsohn or Kristin Scott Thomas find their way in. I’m not counting on it but it could happen. Other top lead acting contenders could bring in their supporting counterparts the way Reese Witherspoon brought in Laura Dern (Wild) or Ben Kingsley brought in Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog). Margot Robbie (I, Tonya) could rope in Sebastian Stan. Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) could make a path for Catherine Keener or Betty Gabriel. Mark Rylance (Dunkirk) is another stealth contender. A recent Oscar winner, he’s in a major Best Picture contender and the film’s only shot at an acting nomination. Chances are good that he’ll get in at BAFTA and if he does that takes him out for this.
We’ll do this once again once BAFTA announces.