Barring some category placements, Best Actor feels like a clearer path for a handful of early contenders than Supporting Actor. Like we usually do, we have previous winners and nominees, veterans who have never been nominated, comebacks and newcomers looking to restore what was one of the Oscars’ long-standing stats until this last season; the first-time Best Actor nominee.
Song Kang-ho probably came close to a nomination for 2019’s Parasite, the Best Picture Oscar winner and also the SAG Cast winner that season. Between a bit of ‘is he lead or is he supporting?’ confusion, the history of Asian acting nominees was already bleak and despite NEON’s superb campaign for the film, its actors as individuals were not recognized. The very next year saw Steven Yeun nominated in lead for Minari (the first ever for an East Asian actor) and Youn Yuh-jung winning Supporting Actress for the same film. The corner could turn for Song this year as NEON just picked up the new Kore-eda film Broker, a story that revolves around characters associated with ‘baby boxes,’ which allow infants to be dropped off anonymously to be cared for by others, which his debuting at Cannes (just as Parasite did).
Brendan Fraser was one of the most popular actors in Hollywood in the 1990s. Between School Ties, Encino Man and George of the Jungle, then culminating in an Oscar-winning film (1998’s Gods and Monsters) one of the decade’s best adventure films, 1999’s The Mummy. The 2000s were a muddled mix of remakes and sequels that failed and flopped. Everything had been going Fraser’s way until it wasn’t. Personal struggles and a public acknowledgement of sexual harassment committed against him by a Hollywood Foreign Press Association executive in 2003, took him mostly out of the film limelight but he continued to work in television, kicking off the beginning of his comeback with HBO Max’s Doom Patrol in 2019. He has a supporting role in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon (more on that below) but he’ll make his leading man film comeback in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale for A24. In the film, Fraser plays a 600-pound middle-aged man named Charlie who tries to reconnect with his 17-year-old daughter abandoning his family for his gay lover. That’s quite a logline and setup for some incredibly baity material, and while A24 has quite a bit on their plate this year, a focused campaign for Fraser could pay off handsomely.
Veteran character and supporting actor Colman Domingo has been poised for lead stardom for some time and dipped his toe into awards contention last year with Zola but this year has his biggest and best shot ever with Rustin, the biopic of gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, close confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and co-organizer of the historical March on Washington in 1963. Rustin is directed by George C. Wolfe, who’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom propelled Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis to Best Actor and Best Actress nominations, respectively. Both won lead SAG Awards for their work.
Leonardo DiCaprio in a Martin Scorsese film based on a best-selling non-fiction book (David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI) sounds like as good as ‘good on paper’ gets. While he fumbled when paired with the director for 2002’s The Gangs of New York, he easily earned a nomination when they reunited just a few years later for 2004’s The Aviator and then again for 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Purely from an odds standpoint, they’re good. Based on the source material, there is an argument to be made that both DiCaprio and co-star Jesse Plemons should share co-lead status but a recent quote from an Apple Original Films executive strongly implied that DiCaprio would go lead and Plemons would go supporting (where I have him now) but that’s far from set in stone. That isn’t to say it’s very likely, it certainly is. The Academy hasn’t nominated two leading actors from the same film since 1984’s Amadeus. But, as we saw this last season, every stat or streak is bound to end sometime. Fun fact: if DiCaprio is nominated, Scorsese will tie Sidney Lumet for having directed the most Best Actor Oscar-nominated performances with eight.
Now, there’s always the possibility that with Scorsese’s historically long post-production schedules that he won’t have the film ready for a 2022 release. If that’s the case, and with Will Smith’s slave drama Emancipation officially of this year’s calendar, we could see Ridley Scott’s Napoleon swoop in. On the polar opposite side, Scott’s extraordinarily fast post-production could benefit the studio in crunch time. For now, I’m going with Killers of the Flower Moon in 2022 and Napoleon in 2023 but we have a lot of time before we know either way.
Here are my 2023 Oscar predictions in Best Actor for May 2022.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio – Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple Original Films)
2. Brendan Fraser – The Whale (A24)
3. Hugh Jackman – The Son (Sony Pictures Classics)
4. Colman Domingo – Rustin (Netflix)
5. Song Kang-ho – Broker (NEON)
6. Austin Butler – Elvis (Warner Bros)
7. Adam Driver – White Noise (Netflix)
8. Diego Calva – Babylon (Paramount Pictures)
9. Colin Firth – Empire of Light (Searchlight Pictures)
10. Bill Nighy – Living (Sony Pictures Classics)
11. Michael Fassbender – Next Goal Wins (Searchlight Pictures)
12. Colin Farrell – The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight Pictures)
13. Christian Bale – Amsterdam (20th Century Studios)
14. Brad Pitt – Babylon (Paramount Pictures)
15. Micheal Ward – Empire of Light (Searchlight Pictures)
16. Park Hae-il – Decision to Leave (MUBI)
17. Kelvin Harrison Jr. – Chevalier (Searchlight Pictures)
18. Gabriel LaBelle – The Fabelmans (Universal Studios)
19. Banks Repeta – Armageddon Time (Focus Features)
20. Daniel Giménez Cacho – Bardo (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths) (Netflix)
Other contenders (alphabetical):
- Christian Bale – The Pale Blue Eye (Netflix)
- Timothée Chalamet – Bones and All – MGM/AMAZON
- John Cho – Don’t Make Me Go (Amazon Studios)
- Taron Egerton – Tetris (Apple Original Films)
- Zac Efron – The Greatest Beer Run Ever (Apple Original Films)
- Idris Elba – Three Thousand Years of Longing (MGM/UAR)
- Michael Fassbender – The Killer (Netflix)
- Jamie Foxx – The Burial (Amazon Studios)
- Jesse Garcia – Flamin’ Hot (Searchlight Pictures)
- Jalil Hall – Till (MGM/UAR)
- Ethan Hawke – Raymond & Ray (Apple Original Films)
- Nicholas Hoult – The Menu (Searchlight Pictures)
- Ewan McGregor – Raymond & Ray (Apple Original Films)
- Paul Mescal – Aftersun (A24)
- Paul Mescal – Carmen (Sony Pictures Classics)
- Paul Mescal – Foe (Amazon Studios)
- Viggo Mortensen – Crimes of the Future (NEON)
- Wagner Moura – Civil War (A24)
- Jack O’Connell – Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Netflix)
- Jim Parsons – Spoiler Alert (Focus Features)
- Dev Patel – Monkey Man (Netflix)
- Joaquin Phoenix – Disappointment Blvd. (A24)
- Eddie Redmayne – The Good Nurse (Netflix)
- Sam Rockwell – See How They Run (Searchlight Pictures)
- Adam Sandler – Spaceman of Bohemia (Netflix)
- John David Washington – True Love (20th Century Studios)
- Ben Whishaw – Women Talking (MGM/UAR)
- Steve Coogan – The Lost King – TBD
- Harry Dickinson – Triangle of Sadness – TBD
- Jean Dujardin – November – TBD
- Joel Edgerton – The Brutalist – TBD
- Jesse Eisenberg – Manodrome – TBD
- Jon Hamm – Corner Office – TBD
- Jon Hamm – Maggie Moore(s) – TBD
- Melvil Poupaud – Brother and Sister – TBD
- Tahar Rahim – Don Juan – TBD
Photo courtesy of ZIP Cinema/CJ ENM Co.