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Leonardo DiCaprio: Looking at potential Best Actor contenders

Folks, as you all know from last year as well as my articles again so far this year, it’s one thing to read early Academy Award predictions at this point in the year in order to see what folks like myself think will happen six or so months from now, but it’s another thing entirely to actually know something about what will be in contention. To help out in that regard, I’m once again running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category in order to prep you all for the season to come. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls that the Academy might take a shine to. Consider this a sort of before the awards season cheat sheet to have in your back pocket. It’s old hat to you by now, I’m sure, but hey…

Today I’m continuing with another of the bigger ones that’s out there for us…the Best Actor category.

Here are the ten gentlemen that I have in play for Best Actor, with the top five cracking the lineup at this point:

1. Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) – Everyone pretty much agrees that DiCaprio will win an Oscar one day, it’s just a matter of when. Could it be this year? He’s the odds on favorite for many, and while I’m not sure it will happen, I can’t argue that he seems to be the most likely contender right now. The Trailer we saw suggests a physical and intense role, so if he can impress as much as we think he potentially can here, it might just be his time.

2. Michael Fassbender (The Light Between Oceans or Macbeth or Steve Jobs) – A lot will depend on which film asserts itself as Fassbender’s prime vehicle. Steve Jobs seems like it’ll be the one most likely to work for him, but that remains to be seen. I can’t shake the feeling that Fassbender isn’t going to win for that role, so perhaps The Light Between Oceans or Macbeth will wind up making a late charge? His candidacy is one of the more interesting subplots in this year’s Best Actor race, if you ask me…

3. Matt Damon (The Martian) – Perhaps a bit of wishful thinking on my part, but I know how amazing the part for Damon is from the novel. The role is incredibly juicy and should offer him a ton of great moments, so if he and Ridley Scott nailed the source material, this could be a legitimate possibility. I might very well end up with egg on my face in regards to this one, especially considering Scott’s recent track record, but everything so far suggests something very special.

4. Don Cheadle (Miles Ahead) – A late entry into the field, but one that’s quickly moving up many lists, including my own. Cheadle’s passion project is a possibility for him in multiple categories, but Best Actor is the place that would most directly reflect his contribution. He’s the very definition of an X factor right now, but considering he directs and co-writes here as well, if the final product is strong, the Academy will definitely try to slip him in somewhere.

5. Jason Segel (The End of the Tour) – If there’s any cinematic justice in the world, Segel will get cited for this role (by the by, the movie is out today and is an absolute must see…don’t miss it). I can’t say enough about how amazing he is in this film, but it will all depend on if the precursors take notice of him. Perhaps I’m too bullish on Segel’s candidacy, but I very much want to believe that voters won’t sleep on this performance. Time will tell…

6. Johnny Depp (Black Mass) – Could Depp be back in the running after a fairly long slump, according to most? Personally, I loved him last year in Tusk, but he clearly hasn’t been nomination worthy in some time. Folks are going nuts over his work in this one, mainly based on Trailers, so I’m not quite ready to buy in completely. That being said, it won’t take a lot of convincing for me to see him as a strong bet for a nomination. Who knows, maybe he’s even a dark horse to win it all?

7. Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies) – Hanks has been getting snubbed a fair bit recently, so the odds probably favor that happening again. That being said, he’s still heavily in contention for this Steven Spielberg spy thriller. Hanks is going to be nominated for an Oscar again at some point in his career, so it’s just a matter of the stars aligning for him once more. I’m not certain this is the year, but he’s not going away anytime soon, so there’s that.

8. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Snowden or The Walk) – I have a hunch that The Walk will be Gordon-Levitt’s more likely play than Snowden, but we shall see. Both are baity roles though, so there’s a chance for either. JGL has been snubbed a few times already in his career, so the Academy could decide that it’s his time, provided one of these films is up for something else besides just him. We shall see, but it’s a matter of when for Gordon-Levitt, not if.

9. Jake Gyllenhaal (Everest or Southpaw) – Now without Demolition as a contender, Gyllenhaal’s chances of winning an Academy Award this year are much slimmer, and in fact, he could wind up missing out entirely. It’s early, so we don’t know, but Southpaw perhaps isn’t going to be the player in Best Actor it was previously thought to be, which puts a lot of pressure on Everest. The former does have the Harvey Weinstein touch though, which should keep it in play. If Everest has him in Supporting or not in the running at all, it’ll be fascinating to see if The Weinstein Company can keep Southpaw as a viable option for voters.

10. Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl) – Is it possible Redmayne could be right back in play after just winning last year? This is pretty shameless awards bait, but if he’s half as good as he was last time out, there’s a chance. I considered other contenders like Paul Dano (if he’s remembered come the end of the year) or Richard Gere (trust me, he’s deserving), but ultimately it’s hard to ignore the material here. The Academy might make Redmayne wait for another citation, but he could very well be our best chance for back to back wins in some time…

Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans any commentary here) for Best Actor:

11. Paul Dano (Love & Mercy) *Could go Supporting
12. Richard Gere (Time Out of Mind)
13. Tom Hiddleston (I Saw the Light)
14. Ben Foster (The Program)
15. Ian McKellen (Mr. Holmes)
16. Miles Teller (Bleed for This)
17. Will Smith (Concussion)
18. Michael Caine (Youth)
19. Bradley Cooper (Adam Jones)
20. John Cusack (Love & Mercy) *Could go Supporting

Finally, here are ten more fellas to give us a top 30 to cull from, just sans commentary as well:

21. Brad Pitt (By the Sea)
22. Chris Hemsworth (In the Heart of the Sea)
23. Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
24. Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour) *Could go Supporting
25. Ethan Hawke (Born to be Blue)
26. Colin Firth (Genius)
27. Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation)
28. Matthias Schoenaerts (A Bigger Splash)
29. Tom Hardy (Legend)
30. Jack O’Connell (Money Monster)

That’s what the Best Actor race could be made up of this year folks. Stay tuned next week for my look at the Best Actress race!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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