Distinguished veteran actors, thrilling newcomers and some of Hollywood’s most interesting leading men are all being touted for giving complex, riveting supporting performances this season. Each are hallmarks of the Best Supporting Actor category evidenced by recent awardees include two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained, Inglorious Basterds), the highly respected Christopher Plummer (Beginnings) and the posthumous win for Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight.) The race for 2013 looks like it is shaping up to be a two-man showdown for the golden statuette, but with at least 13 great performances getting buzz, the real story is which names will be called on January 16, 2014 (Oscar nomination day.)
Leading the pack are two uniquely different performances. Michael Fassbender has always been a fascinating actor with his recent work in Inglorious Basterds, X-Men: First Class and Prometheus, but it was his role in 2011’s Shame that got awards buzz going. While he missed out on an Academy Award nomination, he will most likely get a nod for his portrayal of Edwin Epps in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. He plays a nasty man and the Academy loves to reward a villain so he is as close to a sure thing as there is. Jared Leto, on the other hand, has been quietly building an interesting portfolio of film work including his turn as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club. He lost quite a bit of weight and plays a transsexual who is HIV-positive. It is an Oscar-baity role that includes a huge transformation; the Academy loves this as well. Proof that he nails the performance is the fact that he was recently named the Hollywood Breakthrough Actor at the Hollywood Film Festival. If the momentum of the film keeps roaring, he could see himself on the podium Oscar night.
Tom Hanks is a two-time Best Actor Oscar winner (Forrest Gump, Philadelphia) and has received three Best Actor nominations (Cast Away, Saving Private Ryan and Big.) In two very different roles, Hanks has the potential of becoming a double nominee as Best Actor (Captain Phillips) and Supporting Actor for playing Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks. Hanks is a great actor and well-liked so it is quite conceivable that Tom Hanks will be nominated in both the Supporting and Lead Actor categories. And if the Academy is feeling like going with one of Hollywood’s most respected, he could steal the thunder of Fassbender and Leto and receive his third Oscar.
Ron Howard’s Rush is getting a lot of attention. Even those who have no interest in Formula-One car racing, are loving the film and much of that love is going to Daniel Bruhl who plays Niki Lauder, a race-car driver and opponent of Chris Hemworth’s James Hunt. Bruhl is probably not very well known to American audiences even though he has had smaller roles in blockbusters like Inglorious Basterds and The Bourne Ultimatum. (What is it about Inglorious Basterds?) The film has been very well-received and his chance of getting an Oscar nomination still seems pretty high. However the race is early and there are other stars with bigger names looming in the distance, so as time passes it will be interesting to see if his performance is still remembered.
One of the hardest working men in Hollywood, John Goodman has appeared in well-received films (Argo and Flight), voiced memorable animated characters (Monsters University and ParaNorman) and worked on television series including Community, Alpha House and Dancing on the Edge. Could the fact that he’s never been nominated for an Academy Award in addition to being in a Coen Brothers film (Inside Llewyn Davis) lead to a Supporting Actor nomination? It certainly seems possible. Goodman is an ideal supporting actor and is always in the bubble, but this could be his year to receive a nomination.
Fresh from his Best Actor nomination for Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper is creating buzz for his performance as Richie DiMaso in American Hustle. Cooper is a popular actor and could find his way into the top five, although his co-star Jeremy Renner could steal some of the votes. The film is set for release in December so it may boil down to the performance, the timing and a good campaign. Speaking of finding their way into the top five, Barkhad Abdi, who portrays Somali Pirate Captain Muse in Captain Phillips, is generating good notices in his film debut and if the film retains its awards-buzz traction, then Adbi’s fierce performance could lead him to a nomination.
All of the above face stiff competition from other fine actors including David Oyelowo (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), James Gandolfini (Enough Said), Matthew McConaughey (Mud), Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners) and Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street.)
This category always has surprises, snubs and stiff competition and 2013 is no different. Who will make the cut and more importantly, who will walk away with the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award? It’s too early to tell, but if I had to choose today, I’d say it will be a Fassbender-Leto battle to the end with a possible Hanks dark-horse victory.