Supporting Actor is a strange category this year and one that, at least at this point in the “race,” feels utterly dominated by Netflix. Not only does it already have a full slate but it recently scooped up Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 from Paramount, adding no less than 3-5 more contenders in this category alone. The streamer’s heavy hitter Mank is also packed with potential nominees here like Tom Pelphrey and Charles Dance. They also have Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which I think holds our next Best Actress winner in Viola Davis, and a spot for Chadwick Boseman. While Boseman won’t factor into Da 5 Bloods as a contender (but two other supporting actors from that film will), he’s in a very good spot for a nomination for Ma Rainey.
The Trial of the Chicago 7, about the the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, is packed with Oscar winners (like Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance), a worldwide prank-star in Sacha Baron Cohen and the name that’s on everyone’s lips – Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Mateen really broke through last year when he co-starred in HBO’s single season adaptation of Watchmen and earned praise and Emmy buzz for his performance. An Emmy nomination there (or a win) would boost that profile even more. His Candyman remake from Nia DaCosta was supposed to be out already but hopefully it will be able to keep its new October 16 date. Cohen is probably playing the most well known name of the bunch, the American political and social activist Abbie Hoffman. Chances are Hoffman’s revolutionary personality and Cohen’s raucous persona could be an irresistible combination for voters. Redmayne plays Tom Hayden, the American activist and California state senator who was also married to two-time Oscar winning actress Jane Fonda for 17 years. The cast also features Jeremy Strong from HBO’s Succession, John Carroll Lynch from Zodiac and FX’s American Horror Story, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception) and Academy Award nominees Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) and Michael Keaton (Birdman). It’s an overflow of riches and, like we see often in a film with a large ensemble, the studio may have to start playing favorites soon so they don’t simply cancel each other out.
Da 5 Bloods is also one of those types of ensembles but Delroy Lindo, the film’s standout and largely central performance, is going to be pushed lead, giving some breathing room to two of the film’s other great actors: Clarke Peters and Jonathan Majors. For Peters, a longtime veteran of film and television, awards talk never really materialized for him despite critically lauded turns in the HBO shows The Wire and Treme. His only accolades have come from being a part of the ensemble of the Oscar-winning film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. For Jonathan Majors, his big breakthrough came just last year in The Last Black Man in San Francisco but it’s Da 5 Bloods where most people probably saw him for the first time. Those that have seen him in both (he also has the upcoming HBO show Lovecraft Country coming this fall) can witness a young actor with incredible range and on his way up. Peters, Majors and Mateen also represent a rise in Black actors being a part of the awards race this year in a way they haven’t been in some time.
The few studios that have bright spots in this Netflix-dominated category are a great batch of contenders cutting a wide swath from Steven Yeun in the Sundance winner Minari (from A24), David Alvarez reprising George Chakiris’s Oscar-winning role in the remake of West Side Story (from 20th Century) and recent Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, playing the drag mother of a Sheffield, England teen who wants to be a drag queen (also from 20th Century). Oscar nominee David Strathairn could return in Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland from Searchlight and her follow up to The Rider. The Searchlight film also stars two-time Best Actress winner Frances McDormand and was set to world premiere at Telluride in September before its cancellation yesterday.
Like with many categories, the fate of so many films is still up in the air. Whether it’s a halted production like 20th Century’s The Last Duel or presumed finished but not yet dated and from a studio with a potentially heavy slate (like A24’s The Humans), it doesn’t make much sense to predict them in anything above an ‘other contenders’ section. Obviously I can and will switch out contenders month to month as news of productions changes as quickly as it does, but in this turbulent year I’m choosing to go with films and performances that I am most assured will be getting an official and qualified release (whether it’s streaming or theatrical, whenever that may return). As stated in Best Actor and Supporting Actress, I’m not including Hamilton in official Oscar predictions until we know officially whether it’s in or it’s out. So no Tony winner Daveed Diggs or nominee Jonathan Groff (yet).
Here are my ranked 2021 Supporting Actor Oscar predictions for July.
- 1. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
- 2. Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
- 3. Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
- 4. Tom Pelphrey – Mank (Netflix)
- 5. Steven Yeun – Minari (A24)
- 6. David Strathairn – Nomadland (Searchlight)
- 7. Mark Rylance – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
- 8. Jonathan Majors – Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
- 9. Clarke Peters – Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
- 10. Richard E. Grant – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (20th Century)
Other contenders: David Alvarez – West Side Story (20th Century), Charles Dance – Mank (Netflix), Adam Driver – The Last Duel (20th Century), Lucas Hedges – French Exit (Sony Pictures Classics), Brian Tyree Henry – Red, White, Water (A24), Richard Jenkins – The Humans (A24), Michael Keaton – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix), Eddie Redmayne – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix), LaKeith Stanfield – Untitled Fred Hampton Project (Warner Bros), Benicio del Toro – The French Dispatch (Searchlight), Glynn Turman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix), Marlon Wayans – Respect (MGM/UA), Forest Whitaker – Respect (MGM/UA)