State of the Race – Supporting Actor

With most of the Fall Festivals wrapping up, the awards race is kicking off in full swing. While the acting races always have a few front runners and the rest of the field feels like a few contenders could pop in, the Supporting Actor race feels pretty open. There are a few names that I’d consider front runners, but there’s a solid 10 actors who give supporting performances that feel they could show up with the right momentum behind them. This week’s podcast episode featured a discussion on the Supporting Actor race, which you can listen to here

Our Oscar Board has entire time’s current rankings in the Supporting Actor category as well as all other Oscar races. Let’s take a look at the consensus Supporting Actor performances and see where we can provide a narrative or path for each performance.

Top Contenders

Ben Wishaw – Women Talking
Women Talking is going to be a huge discussion in Supporting Actress as the Sarah Polley film has multiple contenders in the field, but Ben Wishaw’s performance in the film is a standout and the only contender in the Supporting Actor category for the film. Wishaw’s name has been singled out in most reviews for the film as a striking, heartfelt performance. While he’s never been nominated before, Wishaw is an Emmy winner and has appeared in many films Academy voters would be familiar with. While Wishaw does not have an overdue narrative for a win, he does feel in the right place in his career for a first nomination. 

Brendan Gleeson – The Banshees of Inisherin
The Banshees of Inisherin is not only contending to win in Original Screenplay and perhaps Lead Actor, but the film will also certainly be a player in other categories. Brendan Gleeson is much overdue for his first Oscar nomination and quite a household name for Academy voters with a plethora of work the members have surely seen and voted on in the past. Gleeson teaming up with both Colin Farrell and Martin McDonagh will remind voters of how close Gleeson may have been for their last film together, In Bruges.

Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere All at Once
While I’m personally waiting to see how the industry responds to Everything Everywhere All at Once before predicting it to secure as many nominations as some are predicting, I do think Ke Huy Quan has quite the shot at his first nomination here. Quan not only has an amazing narrative behind him, but he also has one of the best supporting performances of the year. I was not as high on the film as everyone else, but his performance stuck with me and is surely to make my own list of supporting performances. Quan’s campaign feels off to an impressive start from visiting The Goonies’ sound stage to reuniting with Harrison Ford. While A24 may have a lot on their plate with The Whale and getting Everything Everywhere into other above-the-line categories, it feels Quan may continue to keep his own name in the conversation on his own merit. 

Strong Contenders

Paul Dano – The Fabelmans
I know, you’re thinking Paul Dano is in the hunt to win the Supporting Actor Oscar this year and should be in the Top Contenders field. However, I personally feel a little less strong about his campaign with Michelle Williams being shifted to the Lead Actress category. I do think Dano is majorly overdue for his first Oscar nomination, but I still have some residual pain from his snub for There Will Be Blood. The film will be contending for the win in Best Picture, Original Screenplay and perhaps Original Score, so Dano obviously has a leg up on his competition as the film will be seen by all. While he does feel a strong name to list towards the top of your predictions, I do want to see how he plays with critics and precursors as he’s one of many supporting actors in the latest Steven Spielberg film. 

Brad Pitt – Babylon
While Brad Pitt is a name I’d personally rather not discuss, he is a previous winner in this category and in a film that will be in contention for perhaps most categories. Babylon is a question mark for us all right now, but a Damien Chazelle film late breaking will most likely have a good chance at picking up a slew of nominations. Pitt is a standout in the trailer and feels like an easy nomination for the Academy voters to award the film. With the information that’s available now on Pitt’s alleged behavior towards his family, I don’t think most Academy voters will care as they’ve nominated, and awarded, performers, directors, writers, and producers in the past with similar allegations. 

This is where the Supporting Actor category gets interesting as it feels completely open after these names. While there are plenty more names in contention, the rest feel they could easily rise, or fall, depending on their campaigns, critical response, box office, pundit support, or just anything else… 

Wildcard Contenders

Don Cheadle – White Noise
White Noise has had quite a muted response. While we knew the Noah Baumbach film would play well at the NYFF, it still feels as if most people are not too high on the film overall. The film will surely contend for Adapted Screenplay as the material was widely considered unadaptable for film, but outside of the screenplay, it feels it may not pick up too much steam elsewhere. Don Cheadle has one Oscar nomination yet feels a bit overdue for another. Cheadle’s performance has been singled out in most reviews and if he can pick up some critics’ love, he could sneak in at SAG. I’m not ready to predict him in my 5 nominations, but I’d keep an eye on Cheadle. 

Woody Harrelson – Triangle of Sadness
Triangle of Sadness may not play exactly as Academy friendly, but I think the Academy will love it. I think the Academy will think the film is edgy and perhaps not exactly realize the film is taking shots at some voters. Woody Harrelson is not only a former nominee in this category, but he also feels undervalued by the Academy for picking up nominations for widely loved performances. He is an American presence in a film with mostly actors from overseas, which feels like the performance the Academy would choose to acknowledge given their reluctance to nominate actors from outside the US. 

Brian Tyree Henry – Causeway
For years, Brian Tyree Henry has delivered astonishing supporting performances that critics and film lovers put in their top performances of the year lists, yet he’s never broken through to the Oscars. Causeway is a small film and Henry is said to give a subtle performance; however, I do think with the right campaign and momentum behind him, he could have a chance at sneaking into a Supporting Actor line up. If critics and pundits truly rally behind him, I wouldn’t count Henry out. Apple could see him as a way to get their film in the Oscar conversation and really put a good campaign behind him, but he would really need to have the industry show he has a chance at getting in. 

Anthony Hopkins – Armageddon Time
Sir Anthony Hopkins is a name you should never count out when it comes to the Oscars. Armageddon Timefeels it might sneak its way into a few nominations or just disappear from the conversation completely. Hopkins feels he has quite an Academy friendly role in a personal film from James Gray. He’s towards the near bottom of my long list of contenders, but I wouldn’t count him out just yet.

Judd Hirsch – The Fabelmans
Paul Dano feels the easier nomination in Supporting Actor for The Fabelmans, however every single review has mentioned Judd Hirsch. While his screentime is brief and would truly be a supporting role, Hirsch has clearly made an impact on all who have been lucky to have seen the film. Following the premiere of the film at TIFF, ads have already been circulating more focused on Hirsch’s performance. This feels an indicator that the studio and marketing team are already building a campaign for Hirsch. 

Barry Keoghan – The Banshees of Inisherin
It could feel unlikely for the Academy voters to nominate two supporting performances from one film in this category, but it has happened before. Barry Keoghan is a young actor, but his filmography is wide and would have a good chance of being seen by most voters. Keoghan is building quite the resume with box office success as well as critically acclaimed films. His performance is being described as quite the standout in a cast with highly respected actors. 

Mark Rylance – Bones and All
I know Mark Rylance delivers a zany performance each year that we stop to wonder, “what if he gets in?” Bones and All does not seem Academy friendly, however, Rylance is a previous winner in the category, and it seems impossible for anyone to see the film and not discuss his performance. The issue here will be getting Academy viewers to see the film, however, if Adapted Screenplay continues to feel thin, Bones and All could contend there, which would help the film get seen by voters. While I don’t think Rylance should be on top of anyone’s predictions, I do think he might get some critics’ wins and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him in the conversation at the very least. 

Jeremy Strong – Armageddon Time
While a household name due to Succession, Jeremy Strong has been in a few Oscar players over the year. Strong is also highly respected by the actors’ branch and I feel with a proper campaign, he could utilize that to sneak in for a nomination. I’d wait to see if the film maintains momentum and if Strong is able to sneak into a SAG line up before predicting him, but I’d keep him in your longlist for now. 

While there are a ton of more options from Seth Rogen to Michael Ward to Tobey Maguire to Frankie Faison, I’d wait to see how these truly play out with overall reception, campaigns, and precursors before moving them high up on your prediction lists. While there are some campaigns that never got a chance to get started due to reception (I’m sorry Chris Pine in Don’t Worry Darling), there could still be a shot for some not even listed (Elvis is after all a Christmas movie…. Tom Hanks). 

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