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Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2014 Best Supporting Actor & Actress Nominees

Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2014 Best Supporting Actor & Actress Nominees

We’re coming to the end of our week of previewing possible contenders for the 2014 Academy Awards, having already examined Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress. There’s one more piece to come after this, but right now, we’re going to take a look at the trickiest categories to predict this far out: Best Supporting Actor and Actress.

It’s difficult to make long-range guesses of any kind, but particularly so when it comes to Supporting Roles — it’s not easy to suss out which actor of an ensemble will be the one that stands out. Nevertheless, we weren’t disastrous last year (bar perhaps our pick of Sean Penn for “Gangster Squad,” which didn’t just move into 2013, but also proved to be a terrible performance), even if our exact predictions were some ways off. Will we do any better this time around? Check out our selections below, and make your own in the comments section. 

Best Supporting Actor

Strong Contenders

Mark Ruffalo – “Foxcatcher”
Coming off the the success of “The Avengers,” Mark Ruffalo looks to have a good year coming up, with the heist flick “Now You See Me” and musical romance “Can A Song Save Your Life?” both brewing. But the film that could land him his second Oscar nomination is Bennett Miller‘s “Foxcatcher,” which we figure is going to be a big player across all the categories. Ruffalo plays Dave Schultz, a gold medal-winning wrestler who befriended the Olympic team’s sponsor, John du Pont (Steve Carell) only (SPOILER) to be killed by him. There’s an obvious tragedy to the role, and Ruffalo’s undergone a physical transformation too, bulking up and going part-bald. We haven’t read the script, so it’s always possible that Channing Tatum, who plays Mark, John’s brother and teammate, may have the more potent character, but our money’s very much on Ruffalo, who feels like someone who should have won an Oscar years ago (he’s only been nominated once, for “The Kids Are All Right“).

Josh Brolin – “Labor Day”
Like Ruffalo, Josh Brolin is another actor who feels like he’s been much lauded, but in reality only has a single nomination (Bet Supporting Actor for “Milk“). But in “Labor Day,” in which Brolin plays an escaped murderer who befriends a young boy and his agoraphobic mother (Kate Winslet), he might have one of the best roles he’s ever had, and certainly one of the most awards-friendly. It should allow the actor to be both menacing and gentle, and given that Jason Reitman‘s directing the film, it’s likely to allow some humor in there as well. It’s probably a more significant role than most of these ones, but our gut is that Brolin will end up campaigning in Supporting, and has a damn good chance at getting into the five.

Colin Farrell – “Saving Mr. Banks”
Despite plenty of acclaimed performances, Colin Farrell has never actually been nominated for an Oscar. And to pick up a nod for a Disney film about the making of “Mary Poppins” would be somewhat discordant with the rest of the one-time hellraiser’s career. But he’s got the showiest supporting role (although Paul Giamatti, as P.L. Travers’ driver, might be one to keep an eye on too), as the inspiration for the title character in “Saving Mr. Banks.” Farrell plays Travers’ father, a good-natured man lost hopelessly in alcoholism. It’s a beautifully written part, and given the connections with the now-sober Farrell’s own life, has a tailor-made narrative in place for awards season. It’s not the largest of roles, so it could end up being seen as too small for a nomination, but we think it’s definitely a possibility.

Jeremy Renner – “Untitled David O Russell Abscam Project”
After two back-to-back nominations for “The Hurt Locker” and “The Town,” Jeremy Renner‘ sat out the last couple of awards seasons in favor of blockbusters like “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” “The Bourne Legacy” and “The Avengers.” But with that initial salvo out the way, Renner is returning to the kind of prestige fare that made his name, and while he could well be a prospect for James Gray‘s “Lowlife,” we think his chances are better with David O. Russell‘s untitled latest. The director’s films are generally awards magnets for their supporting players, and Renner has the juiciest supporting role, as the state senator and hugely popular mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Angelo Errichetti, who is one of the targets of an FBI sting operation intended to tackle political corruption. We suppose Bradley Cooper (who’s really the co-lead) or even Louis CK might be the one to stand out in the film, but the smart money is on Renner.

Sam Rockwell – “The Way Way Back”
Like Farrell, Sam Rockwell has somehow failed to ever get an Oscar nomination, despite being one of the most talented actors of his generation. There’s a number of possible films on the way, but his best chance may come with the Sundance flick “The Way Way Back.” The film, directed by “The Descendants” writers Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, was one of the big Sundance hits, snapped up for record sums by Fox Searchlight, who hope to turn it into the next “Little Miss Sunshine.” And Rockwell apparently steals the show as Owen, the manager of a waterpark at which protagonist Duncan (Liam James) works. Rockwell’s turn has been compared to Bill Murray and generally praised to the skies (the Hollywood Reporter says it might be “the most winning performance in a career full of charm”). He’s undeniably overdue for a nomination, and we definitely think this has the potential to finally get him one.


Benedict Cumberbatch – “August: Osage County”
Right now, fast-rising star Benedict Cumberbatch has no Oscar nominations, but with five films on the way before the end of the year, it’s entirely possible that by this time in 2014, he’ll have two. We’ve already tipped him as a possibility in Best Actor as Julian Assange in “The Fifth Estate,” but Cumberbatch could also figure into the supporting races. We suppose there’s a slim chance of a nod for his “Star Trek Into Darkness” villain (only if it’s a performance of Ledger-in-“The Dark Knight” or Bardem-in-“Skyfall” level genius), but much, much more likely is his role in the ensemble of “August: Osage County.” The adaptation of Tracy Letts‘ Pulitzer Prize-winning play has plenty of actors who could make it in here (Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Dermot Mulroney), but probably the juiciest supporting role in the play is Cumberbatch’s ‘Little’ Charles Aiken, the unemployed screw-up son of Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper‘s characters. Playing a midwestern slacker would be an impressive demonstration of his range, and if the film takes off, the role might well figure in as well as (or indeed, instead of) “The Fifth Estate.”

Will Forte -“Nebraska”
Yes, it’s entirely viable that this time next year, the ex-SNLer and “MacGruber” star will be an Oscar nominee. The casting of Will Forte in Alexander Payne‘s latest, a black-and-white road movie about a father and son, raised some eyebrows when it was announced, but the director has proved to be an expert at casting people against type in the past (Chris Klein in “Election,” Dermot Mulroney in “About Schmidt,” Thomas Haden Church in “Sideways,” Matthew Lillard in “The Descendants“), and Forte’s talent has never been in question, even if he’s never had a role to test him like this one. He’s likely a co-lead in the film, but we’re pretty sure that the studio will push Dern, as the veteran, in the lead, and make Forte the supporting player, where he’s likely to have a better chance at registering.

Joaquin Phoenix – “Lowlife”
The star of ‘The Master” made his feelings clear about awards season late last year, but still went on to get a nomination for the film, and even diligently sat and eye-rolled his way through the ceremony. As such, his comments don’t seem to have done him much harm, so he could well figure into the race this year, with his best chance likely coming with James Gray‘s “Lowlife.” His previous collaborations with the filmmaker haven’t led to nominations, but the muscle of The Weinstein Company is behind it and expecting big things, and Phoenix gets to bring out his nasty streak (which previously got him a nod in the category for “Gladiator“) as a pimp exploiting Marion Cotillard‘s immigrant. As we’ve said before in these pieces, the film may turn out to be a critic’s favorite more than an awards player, but Phoenix’s talents mean that he’s always worth considering.

Bradley Cooper – “Serena”
A couple of years ago the idea that Bradley Cooper could get an Oscar nomination would have been laughable, but “The Hangover” star proved the doubters wrong when his excellent performance in “Silver Linings Playbook” was rightly given a nod. As such, Cooper’s definitely in the club, and has multiple possibilities on the way (a turn in “The Place Beyond The Pines” that might be even better, though a longer shot to be nominated, and another movie with David O. Russell). But the one we’ve got our eye on is Susanne Bier‘s “Serena.” A reteam with ‘Silver Linings’ star Jennifer Lawrence, it’s a period piece about greed, ambition and murder, and about as different a follow-up to the comedy-drama as you could imagine. Lawrence’s is definitely the juicier role, but Cooper will have plenty to play with as well, and if he can pull it off, he could be back for his second year in a row.

Javier Bardem – “The Counselor”
Five years on from his victory in this category with “No Country For Old Men,” Javier Bardem got some buzz for a possible nomination for another villain, in the shape of Silva in “Skyfall.” It failed to materialize, but Bardem’s still certainly a threat this time around, as the actor is appearing as another no-good type in a Cormac McCarthy work, this time in Ridley Scott‘s “The Counselor.” The actor has a major supporting part as Reiner, a client of the title character (Michael Fassbender) who helps him get involved in the criminal world. It’s not dissimilar to the kind of role that Bardem’s played before, but there’s lots of meat to it, and the actor’s sure to find a new twist on it.
Also In Contention: One immediate thought we had was Casey Affleck in “Out Of The Furnace,” but the role is a small one — Woody Harrelson or Willem Dafoe might be better bets. Meanwhile, only a fool would discount someone from “Monuments Men” breaking out, though at this stage it’s difficult to guess who it might be. Other possibilities include Michael Fassbender in “Twelve Years A Slave,” Matthew McConaughey or Jonah Hill in “Wolf Of Wall Street,” Tim Roth in “Grace of Monaco,” Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club,” Philip Seymour Hoffman in “A Most Wanted Man,” John Goodman in “Inside Llewyn Davis,” one of the various presidents in “The Butler,” Harrison Ford in “42” (though an April release suggests otherwise), Dane DeHaan in “The Place Beyond The Pines,” or Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke or Tobey Maguire in “The Great Gatsby.” We’d love for either James Franco in “Spring Breakers” or Ben Foster in “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” to happen, but they’re probably unlikely, while one to keep an eye on is Hiroyuki Sanada; the Japanese actor has a major role opposite Colin Firth in “The Railway Man.”

Best Supporting Actress

Strong Contenders

Cameron Diaz – “The Counselor”
She deserved one for “Being John Malkovich,” but Cameron Diaz has never had an Oscar nomination, partly because her more dramatic fare (“In Her Shoes,” “My Sister’s Keeper“) have tended to perform and be received less well than her comedies. But Diaz has one of the most sought-after roles in recent memory, as the tempestuous and Machiavellian Malinka, the girlfriend of Javier Bardem‘s Reiner, in Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy‘s brutal crime tale “The Counselor.” It’s a role that, on the page, is as memorable as Bardem’s in “No Country For Old Men,” and we have to confess that we were surprised and a bit baffled at Diaz’s casting (it would have made much more sense to us if she and Penelope Cruz swapped roles). But if she can pull it off — and early whispers suggest that she might have — she’ll make people think of her in a whole new light, and get at least a nomination in the process.

Carey Mulligan – Inside Llewyn Davis
Unjustly excluded for her excellent performance in “Shame,” Carey Mulligan is back in a big way in 2013. And while she might figure in with “The Great Gatsby,” our money says that she’ll make more of an impact with the Coen Brothers‘ latest, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” The trailer suggests the actress has a particular knack for the duo’s dialogue, and shows yet another side to the versatile star. There’s some question of whether she could campaign as lead for the part — she plays the wife of folk singer Justin Timberlake, who has an affair of sorts with the title character, played by Oscar Isaac — but we think that her chances would be better here in such a tough year for Best Actress.  But again, the question mark is whether CBS Films are able to campaign effectively for the film, having never really competed in the awards season.

Isla Fisher – The Great Gatsby
Mulligan also features in “The Great Gatsby,” as Daisy, but let’s be honest, the character isn’t quite as interesting as Myrtle, the unstable, tragic mistress of Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), Daisy’s husband. And as such, we think that Isla Fisher has a strong chance of recognition this time. Fisher has always shone, even when she’s had ropey material, but by getting to step away from the comedy work she’s best known for, she’s more likely to get attention. But the film was always going to be divisive, and it’s possible it won’t work at all, which would harm her chances, and a summer release would make it doubly tricky to last a long awards season. We’ll see how it turns out in May. Another possibility is Australian newcomer Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Jordan Baker, but that’s a somewhat less substantial role.

Julia Roberts or Margo Martindale – “August: Osage County”
Again, “August: Osage County” is positively stuffed with potential acting nominees, and as with Best Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress has multiple potentials, including Juliette Lewis and Abigail Breslin. But we think that the best chance will come from one of two sources: A-lister Julia Roberts or character actress Margo Martindale. The former obviously has the star power, and the more crucial role of Barbara, the controlling oldest daughter of Violet Weston (Meryl Streep). But Martindale (a recent Emmy winner for her amazing turn on “Justified“) might have more fun with her part, as Mattie Fae Aiken, Violet’s sister. The role won original cast member Rondi Reed a Tony for the part, and we wonder if the Academy might end up following suit. But the risk is that votes could be split between the various roles in the film, unless one clear choice emerges.

Amy Adams – “Untitled David O Russell Abscam Project”
Amy Adams has been nominated in the Supporting Actress category more than any of her contemporaries — her nod for “The Master” marked her fourth — but somehow, she never won. Could that change with her reunion with David O Russell, with whom she earned her third nod for “The Fighter“? While Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence is also in the cast as Christian Bale‘s wife, it’s a much smaller role than Adams’ — who plays his mistress — and with less to it. Adams’ role is described when she’s introduced as “Ann Margaret meets Dorothy Parker,” and we suspect that Adams will kill in the part. Will her fifth nomination finally see her rewarded with the statue?


Vanessa Redgrave – “Foxcatcher”
Two years back, Vanessa Redgrave was tipped as a potential nominee for “Coriolanus,” but it failed to happen. Last year, we thought she could get one for “Song For Marion,” but while the Weinsteins picked it up, they decided not to release it in 2012, and we’d be very surprised if they campaigned for it, given its soft reception on the festival circuit. But Redgrave does have another shot this time around, for her part in Bennett Miller‘s “Foxcatcher.” If the script that we have, from 2008, is anything to go by, the role of the wheelchair-bound mother of John Du Pont (Steve Carell) is a two-scene wonder (it might well have been expanded, though), but there’s a lot to work with there, and as Judi Dench has proven in the past, honoring a veteran actress doesn’t necessarily require a ton of screen time. There’s also a chance for the underrated Sienna Miller, who plays Nancy, the wife of wrestler Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo).

Naomie Harris – “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom”
If there was ever any hope that Jennifer Hudson might win a second Oscar for playing Winnie Mandela, the controversial wife of Nelson Mandela, in “Winnie,” it’s long since gone. The film is allegedly dreadful, and is yet to be released. But the part could yet prove to be a winner for Naomie Harris who plays her opposite Idris Elba‘s Nelson, in Justin Chadwick‘s “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom.” The actress has raised her profile recently thanks to her part in “Skyfall,” and is more than talented enough to be worthy of nominating. The big question is how major the part is; if the film focuses heavily on Mandela’s time on Robben Island, it may be small-ish. Still, certainly one to keep an eye on. 

Kristin Scott-Thomas – “Only God Forgives”
To the dissent of some fans, we’ve excluded Nicolas Winding Refn‘s “Only God Forgives” from these prediction pieces; “Drive” failed to make much of an impression with the Academy, and the script for “Only God Forgives” makes that film look like a Disney cartoon, as far as the violence goes. But we do wonder about the potential for Kristin Scott-Thomas. The British actress (nominated for “The English Patient” in 1997) has worked in French cinema more often than not in recent years, but she’s got a killer part here as Ryan Gosling’s character’s ruthless crime boss mother Jenna, one very different from any she’s played before. Deep down, we suspect that, as with Albert Brooks and “Drive,” the film will be too grisly for Academy tastes. But with Harvey Weinstein releasing the film, anything’s possible.

Elizabeth Olsen – “Oldboy”
As we said yesterday, Elizabeth Olsen could have a potential Best Actress entry with “Therese Raquin,” but we wonder if her chances might not be better in the supporting category, when she appears in Spike Lee‘s “Oldboy.” Olsen plays Marie, the equivalent to Mi-do (played by Kang Hye-jung), who in the original was a young chef who befriends and helps main character Dae-su, only for them to fall for each other. As fans of the original will know, there’s a twist in store, and unless the remake has watered the plot down (and the filmmakers are keen to suggest that they haven’t), there’s some pretty strong material for Olsen to get her teeth into. The film may not be to the Academy’s tastes in the end, but Olsen just might be. 

Maria Bello, Viola Davis or Melissa Leo – “Prisoners”
We’re not quite sure what to make of “Prisoners” and its awards prospects: the film has an acclaimed script, a prestigious cast and an Oscar-nominated director in the shape of “Incendies” helmer Denis Villeneuve. But the story — revolving around the aftermath of a child abduction — goes to some eyebrow-raising and dark places, closer to “Saw” than “Mystic River,” which may make it principally commercial fare. Its best chances are probably in the supporting acterss category, given that it has awards favorites Maria Bello, Viola Davis and Melissa Leo in the cast. It’s tough to say too much about the parts — Bello and Davis play the mothers of two kidnapped girls, and wives to Hugh Jackman and Terence Howard‘s characters, while Leo plays the aunt of Paul Dano‘s suspected killer — without giving the game away, but any of them have the potential to make it in, if Villeneuve pulls the tricky material off.

Also In Contention: Zoe Saldana in “Out Of The Furnace,” Jennifer Garner in “Dallas Buyers Club,” Laura Linney, Alicia Vikander and Carice Van Houten in “The Fifth Estate,” Julianne Moore in “Carrie” and Hailee Steinfeld in “Can A Song Save Your Life?”

And our exact predictions, for the record:

Best Supporting Actor

Josh Brolin – “Labor Day”
Colin Farrell – “Saving Mr. Banks”
Jeremy Renner – “Untitled David O Russell
Sam Rockwell – “The Way Way Back”
Mark Ruffalo – “Foxcatcher”

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams – “Untitled David O Russell Abscam Project”
Cameron Diaz – “The Counselor”
Isla Fisher – “The Great Gatsby”
Carey Mulligan – “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Julia Roberts or Margo Martindale – “August: Osage County”

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Just saw "The Way, Way Back" today, and I was walking out saying Rockwell should earn a supporting nod for this. He reminded me of Renée Zellweger in "Cold Mountain", I remember saying the same thing about her goofy part in that. I also think Liam James deserves a best actor nomination for his work. This was a brilliant film. Love loved!

christopher loup

I think that Kristin Scott thomas has strong potential of being a contender in the best supp actress category. She plays a role out of her usual ones and with great success. I really hope she gets a nod.


here are my very early predictions


lindsay burdge A TEACHER
shailene woodley THE SPECTACULAR NOW
zoe saldana BLOOD TIES
Trieste Kelly Dunn LOVES HER GUN
kate winslet LABOR DAY
… rooney mara SIDE EFFECTS
carey mulligan THE GREAT GATSBY
noomi rapace DEAD MAN DOWN
nicole kidman GRACE OF MONACO
cate blanchett BLUE JASMINE
carey mulligan INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
jennifer lawrence SERENA
naomi watts DIANA
michelle monaghan GUS
michelle pfeiffer MALAVITA
brie larson SHORT TERM 12
julianne moore WHAT MAISIE KNEW


robert deniro MALAVITA
bruce dern NEBRASKA
michael fassbender THE COUNSELOR
billy crudup BLOOD TIES
benedict cumberbatch THE FIFTH ESTATE
forest whitaker THE BUTLER
leonardo dicaprio WOLF WALL STREET
joseph gordon levitt DON JON
robert redford ALL IS LOST
ashton kutcher JOBS
leonardo dicaprio THE GREAT GATSBY
matthew mcconaughey MUD
ryan gosling ONLY GOD FORGIVES
paul walker HOURS
edward james olmos GO FOR SISTERS
robert redford THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
josh brolin OLDBOY


kristin scott thomas ONLY GOD FORGIVES
sally hawkins BLUE JASMINE
cameron diaz THE COUNSELOR
radha mitchell GUS
julie christie THE COMPAY YOU KEEP
scarlett johansen DON JON
hailee steinfeld CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE
olga kurylenko TO THE WONDER
elizabeth olsen OLDBOY


russell crowe RUSH
james caan BLOOD TIES
sam rockwell THE WAY WAY BACK
will forte NEBRASKA
tommy lee jones MALAVITA
javier bardem TO THE WONDER
tobey maguire THE GREAT GATSBY
matthew mcconaughey DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
terence howard DEAD MAN DOWN
sharlto copley OLDBOY
matthew mcconaughey WOLF WALL STREET
alan rickman THE BUTLER
javier bardem THE COUNSELOR
tony danza DON JON


I'm shocked that they're all white. That's so unlike the Academy Awards and Hollywood.


Nicole Kidman in The Railway Man


I would love to see Will Forte get a nod, I really like him.


Barbara in 'August: Osage County' is definitely a lead role. Some would say it's even bigger than Violet (Streep). Amy Morton was in lead at the Tony Awards and it would be an incredible stretch to say that there are not two co-leads in the piece.


LOL! Cumberbatch is "Little Charles"?! This is gonna be awesome. From a genius dettective, a terrifying villain in Star Trek, Smaug the Dragon and "US enemy 1" in The Fifth Estate to a dumb, unemployed, man-child?! I am so looking forward to this!


im amazed at hoe much faith you guys seem to have in the great gatsby. seeing as luhrman is lady gaga-ing it up big time its obviously gonna be utter shit


What about Pitt in "The Counselor" … he's great in supporting roles (12 Monkeys; Burn After Reading,Babel and The Tree of Life come to mind)… and also Paul Giamatti in "Saving Mr. Banks" and maybe any member of "Last Vegas" can have a big time party in that movie (De Niro, Douglas, Freeman and Kline)… also worth mentioning "Mickey Rourke" in Sin City or


Good god the what Bardem looks like in the counselor? Haha!

j bone

ruffalo,rockwell,renner,fassbender and bardem that's my list book it right now


I suspect you have underrated Michael Fassbender. First feedback about his performance in "12 years slave" is very impressive.


I usually hate when comments say "this post is dumb," "jeez, guys. don't you have anything better to write about?" or some other trollish comment. But these premature predictions are kind of ridiculous. Props if y'all are spot on though. :)


Why is there nobody from the cast of Blood Ties? Mila Kunis, Billy Crudup, James Caan, Marion Cotillard? At least one of them will be worth mentioning.

oogle monster

What about Cate Blanchett in Monuments Men?


Keep an eye out for Vithaya Pansringarm in "Only God Forgives."


No actor/actress is getting a nomination for The Great Gatsby. Let it go, it's not an awards contender other than the technical categories.

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