Who is Winning Lead Actor?

Following the Lead Actor Oscar race this season has been quite the eventful time for awards pundits, fans, and audiences. The season kicked off with Austin Butler’s performance getting rave reviews out of the Cannes Film Festival for his role in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. We then followed praise for both Brendan Fraser in The Whale and Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin out of the Venice Film Festival. Praise sustained all year for two films that premiered early in the year for both Bill Nighy in Living, which premiered at Sundance last year, and Paul Mescal in Aftersun, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Both of these films made the rounds at festivals and maintained momentum to land their lead actors Oscar nominations; however it feels the dust has settled on two contenders battling for the win: Butler and Fraser.

Butler was considered a contender early on, but some thought he was a ‘would be lucky to be nominated’ type of contender. His film came out early in the summer, he was new to the awards scene, and is quite young (in the eyes of the Academy, at least). Once the season kicked off, Butler’s name was consistently in the mix. From pundits predicting him to critics nominating him in Lead Actor and awarding him for Breakout Performance. As the season began to shape up, Butler not only seemed like he would make it into the Oscar ‘Lead Actor’ five, but would be a top three contender. 

Fraser felt as if he was instantly in the Oscar race for Lead Actor for his performance in The Whale. Darren Aronofsky has directed four actors to Oscar nominations, including another actor with a ‘comeback narrative’ – Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler. Fraser’s role in The Whale was described before the premiere as physically transformative and deeply emotional. Once the film premiered, clips went viral of the audience and critics responding with standing ovations for Fraser and his performance. Once critics and precursor nominations started rolling out, Fraser was consistently landing in the line-ups. 

Early on in the season, Butler picked up a Golden Globe for Lead Actor in a Drama over Fraser. It should be noted the HFPA has a complicated history with Fraser and he confirmed early on that he would not be attending the show. Butler was able to make a great speech that honored the film as well as the Presley family. Following the Globes win for Butler, Fraser picked up the Critics Choice Award (CCA) for Lead Actor over Butler, and was able to give a speech that quickly went viral online. While neither Golden Globes or Critics Choice have any overlap with the Academy, both contenders were able to pick up some hardware and give great televised speeches to keep their name in the game. 

Originally, it felt as if Farrell would be a top contender for his incredible performance in The Banshees of Inisherin, but the film has not performed as many had thought, including with Farrell not picking up many wins outside of his Golden Globe for a Lead Actor in a Comedy/Musical. Farrell was widely predicted to win for his performance at the BAFTAs a few weeks ago, but he lost to Butler, which some pundits did see coming as the BAFTA voting body was noted as big fans of Elvis and Butler’s performance from screenings throughout the season. Still, this was quite the accomplishment for Butler to pull off. Considering BAFTA awarded two other performances from Banshees, seeing Butler win here was quite impressive for his award season performance. BAFTA has quite the overlap with the Academy voting body. Elvis also picked up awards for Costume Design, Casting, and Makeup, showing strength for the film around Butler. The Whale did not win any awards at BAFTA. 

Butler winning at BAFTA was not an easy win for the actor to pick up, so many assumed SAG would follow. However, Fraser picked up the Lead Actor trophy at SAG over the weekend. SAG has overlap with the Academy voting body and the broadcast of the ceremony on YouTube was quite the success, leading many to see his speech. The Whale had a bit more support from the SAG voting body as Fraser’s co-star, Hong Chau, was also nominated in the Supporting Actress category, which was an indication of strength for Fraser at SAG. 

Heading into the Oscars, Butler has both a Golden Globe win and a BAFTA win, while Fraser has both a CCA win and a SAG win. Each actor has a win for a voting body with and without overlap with the Academy; so what does this mean? SAG and BAFTA typically agree on wins but when the two groups don’t, there’s no exact science as to who wins the Oscar. 

Of the last six disagreements between BAFTA and SAG Lead Actor winners: 

Three times the Oscar went to the SAG winner…
Sean Penn in Milk
Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart
Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

Twice the Oscar went to the BAFTA winner…
Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea
Anthony Hopkins in The Father

And once the Oscar went to neither…
SAG awarded Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean
BAFTA picked Bill Murray in Lost in Translation
Oscar went to Sean Penn in Mystic River

The most recent splits saw the BAFTA Winner pick up the Oscar, which could be good for Butler. Butler also stars in a film with multiple nominations across multiple branches showing wide support for the film, including a Best Picture nomination. Fraser’s film has a Supporting Actress and Makeup & Hairstyling nominations, but missed out on other key nominations it was in consideration for such as Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. Of the above examples where we saw splits between BAFTA and SAG, all the winners (with the exception of Bridges) starred in Best Picture nominees. Even without splits between precursors, over the last 15 years, every Best Actor Oscar winner has come from a Best Picture nominee except Bridges.

What does all this mean? The Best Actor race is coming down to the wire. Butler and Fraser fans alike will not be able to rest easy until that envelope is opened, and we hear a name called. 

Find our Lead Actor predictions here.
You can also read our reviews of The Whale and Elvis.

One response to “Who is Winning Lead Actor?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: