The Male Actor in a Leading Role race at the Screen Actors Guild is overflowing with great performances from huge names and previous winners to fresher faces looking for their first nomination or first wins.
The late Chadwick Boseman could become the first person to earn four Screen Actors Guild nominations in a single year. While he’s guaranteed one for his lead role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, that film has surprisingly shown up at critics’ awards who give out ensemble wins, despite a relatively small (but powerful) cast. He’s also been the surprise contender in Da 5 Bloods as the standout supporting player, earning nominations from multiple critics’ groups and winning New York. That film is also high on the shortlist of likely films to earn an Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture nomination. Boseman is already a SAG winner as a member of the cast of Black Panther, which won that award in 2019.
Ben Affleck may be going through a very public break up with Ana de Armas right now but Warner Bros is going in, way in, on The Way Back and a Best Actor campaign for him right in the middle of SAG and Golden Globes nomination voting with FYC ads, Q&As with Matt Damon, the works. Even though Affleck is a two-time Academy Award winner (Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting, Best Picture for Argo), he’s never been nominated for his acting. The Way Back ushered in what Hollywood loves the most, a comeback. Having gone through rehab more than once himself, his performance as a former high school basketball star returning to his alma mater as a coach and while struggling with alcoholism spoke to audiences and critics who lauded it the best of his career. That said, although Affleck has never been individually nominated here, he is a two-time SAG winner (as a part of the casts of 2012’s Argo and 1998’s Shakespeare in Love as well as a nomination for 1997’s Good Will Hunting), he’s probably more likely at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice. But this would be a good get for him and bump him up in the conversation considerably.
Speaking of career best, Anthony Hopkins’ turn as a man with dementia in The Father earned him some of the best reviews of his 60+ year career. The previous Best Actor Academy Award winner had a bit of an Oscar comeback last year when he was nominated in supporting for The Two Popes but The Father is a sure bet nomination for Hopkins from SAG to the Globes to BAFTA and all the way to the Oscars. What favors Hopkins at SAG is that he’s never won there. He’s a three-time nominee in the motion picture categories (two individual) but Silence of the Lambs predated the SAG awards. History has shown us before that SAG voters are very willing to give a win to an esteemed actor they’ve never rewarded before, even if they don’t end up being the Oscar winner.
Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) is a previous SAG nominee (for his Emmy-winning turn in HBO’s 2014 limited series The Night Of) but is looking for his first motion picture nomination. Steven Yeun (Minari) would be a true fresh face for industry awards, having never been nominated for a SAG or Golden Globe award. His road is going to be tougher than Ahmed and possibly the toughest of any of the top contenders. But his film, and potentially Ahmed’s, are also contenders for SAG’s cast category and that could help them.
Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods) is a veteran in the industry who’s never gotten the awards attention he deserves. Earlier in the season, last summer, he was the frontrunner here on the strength of his performance and the admiration of his career. He’s a previous SAG nominee as a member of the casts of Get Shorty (1995) and The Cider House Rules (1999) and as of this writing he’s just one win behind Boseman in the critics’ awards Best Actor race. Da 5 Bloods, having come out on Netflix in June, has been out the longest of any of his competitors. That could be a crucial advantage.
LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Bottom) and John David Washington (Malcolm & Marie) are late-breakers that could crack the top five but for each of them it’s their co-stars that have dominated the buzz and awards talk. For Stanfield, he’s a weak lead (not in terms of performance but in storytelling and time), which will work against him. For Washington, it’s really only a matter of timing. His performance is absolute fire and he’s Hollywood royalty.
All of these ‘newcomers’ will face major competition from Oscar and SAG Best Actor winners Gary Oldman (Mank) and Tom Hanks (News of the World). Buzz on Mank feels like it’s waning (or has waned) but a miss here would still be a surprise. For Hanks, a nomination here would be the surprise. It’s a worthy and reliable performance and who knows how much being the original poster boy for actors getting COVID could earn him some sympathy votes.
Here are my predictions for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture
- Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
- Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
- Anthony Hopkins – The Father
- Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods
- Gary Oldman – Mank
Watch out for: Ben Affleck – The Way Back, Tom Hanks – News of the World, Steven Yeun – Minari
Other contenders: Kingsley Ben-Adir – One Night in Miami, LaKeith Stanfield – Judas and the Black Messiah, John David Washington – Malcolm & Marie