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2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions: BEST ACTOR (May)

Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis on the set of Netflix’s The Pope

It’s so early in the Best Actor race that no potential top contender has even been seen yet. Only Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood comes close as it is set to debut at the Cannes Film Festival next week.

That isn’t to say there aren’t some powerhouse possibilities with upcoming films and their lead men. Most notably for me is beloved character actor Jonathan Pryce in The Pope from Fernando Meirelles for Netflix. Not only is the material juicy, real-life characters – dueling popes, no less – but the writer of the film is none other than Anthony McCarten. While the name may not strike a bell immediately, all you need to know that McCarten’s scripts have been behind three of the last five Best Actor winners this decade: Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything, Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour and last season’s champ, Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody. All were also in Best Picture-nominated films. That’s a trend that’s too hard to ignore.

Two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro is definitely on the track to return with Martin Scorsese’s epic opus The Irishman, due from Netflix this fall. The Jimmy Hoffa mob story is right in the Scorsese/De Niro wheelhouse and should be a slam dunk. Adam Driver got his first Oscar nomination this year, for Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, and could break through again with the newest film from Noah Baumbach. Baumbach’s films haven’t been huge Oscar magnets in the past (he’s got one screenplay nomination for 2005’s The Squid and the Whale) but this semi-autobiographical story of a director husband and wife splitting up might be it. Michael B. Jordan is an actor who’s been on the cusp of awards talk since 2013’s Fruitvale Station and probably got close last season with Black Panther. His is a career that’s been building and a trajectory towards Oscar is almost inevitable. It could be with Just Mercy, where he plays civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson from Short Term 12‘s Destin Daniel Cretton. The Warner Bros film currently has a mid-January 2020 release but I don’t see why they wouldn’t give it a December qualifying run first. The only question is, with a shortened awards season will it be too late to gain traction?

Next up looks like some previous nominees, recent and long since past, want to find themselves back in the Oscar race. Daniel Kaluuya, who broke through with 2017’s Get Out and earned a Best Actor nomination for it, is back with Universal’s Queen & Slim from Melina Matsoukas. Dev Patel, who earned a Supporting Actor nomination for 2016’s TWC’s Lion, is looking to bump that up to a lead nom for The Personal History of David Copperfield from Armando Iannucci, which has yet to find a distributor. Matthew Rhys is looking for a first Oscar nomination for Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. There’s some debate as to whether Rhys or Tom Hanks (as the famed Mr. Rogers) is the film’s lead or if they’re co-leads. As the film is based on Rhys’s journalist character’s article, I’m leaning that he’s the lead. But then, the same setup in 2006’s The Last King of Scotland (with James McAvoy as a reporter) led to a Best Actor win for Forest Whitaker. There’s simply more information to be known before category placement can be determined.

Ian McKellen has reteamed with Bill Condon, who got him his first Oscar nomination for 1998’s Gods and Monsters, for The Good Liar at Warner Bros. An excellent release date (November 15th) is a good sign. Eddie Murphy came so close to a Best Supporting Oscar after winning the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award but was stopped in his tracks at the Academy Awards. This year could be a big comeback for him, playing Rudy Ray Moore (the actor who portrayed the titular pimp in the 1970s) in Dolemite Is My Name for Hustle & Flow director Craig Brewer and Netflix.

Here are my 2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions in Best Actor for May 15, 2019.

1. Jonathan Pryce – The Pope (Netflix)
2. Adam Driver – Untitled Noah Baumbach (Netflix)
3. Robert De Niro – The Irishman (Netflix)
4. Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (Sony/Columbia)
5. Michael B. Jordan – Just Mercy (Warner Bros)
NEXT UP (alphabetical)
Daniel Kaluuya – Queen & Slim (Universal)
Ian McKellen – The Good Liar (Warner Bros)
Eddie Murphy – Dolemite Is My Name (Netflix)
Dev Patel – The Personal History of David Copperfield (TBD)
Matthew Rhys – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony/Columbia)
OTHER CONTENDERS (alphabetical)
Christian Bale – Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox)
Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory (Sony Classics)
Timothée Chalamet – The King (Netflix)
Matt Damon – Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox)
Adam Driver – The Report (Amazon)
Taron Egerton – Rocketman (Paramount)
Ansel Elgort – The Goldfinch (Amazon/Warner Bros)
Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony/Columbia)
Tom Hardy – Fonzo (TBD)
Anthony Hopkins – The Pope (Netflix)
Edward Norton – Motherless Brooklyn (Warner Bros)
Joaquin Phoenix – Joker (Warner Bros)
Brad Pitt – Ad Astra (20th Century Fox)
Eddie Redmayne – The Aeronauts (Amazon)
Mark Ruffalo – Untitled Todd Haynes aka Dry Run (TBD)
Mark Rylance – Waiting for the Barbarians (TBD)
Adams Sandler – Uncut Gems (TBD)

About Erik Anderson

Erik thanks his mother for his love of all things Oscar, having watched the Academy Awards together since he was in the single digits; making lists, rankings and predictions throughout the show. This led him down the path to obsessing about awards. Much later, he found himself at GoldDerby, led by Tom O’Neill and then migrated over to Oscarwatch (now AwardsDaily), headed up by Sasha Stone before breaking off to create AwardsWatch. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society, GALECA (The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics), the International Press Academy and is the founder/owner of AwardsWatch.

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