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Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2015 Supporting Actor & Actress Contenders

Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2015 Supporting Actor & Actress Contenders

Ok, just one more and then we promise we won’t mention the Oscars until at least after Cannes. Still feeling the hangover from the 86th Academy Awards ten days ago, we’ve been looking ahead to the potential Best Picture, Actor and Actress nominees in 2015. And to wrap up, we’re looking at the Supporting Actor and Actress contenders.

While Picture and the Lead categories can be, relatively speaking, easier to call, Supporting is much tougher—it’s often hard to know about category placement, and supporting roles tend to get much less buzz than their leading counterparts. Last year’s picks were, frankly, disastrous—of the ten supporting nods, we only guessed Julia Roberts correctly (we had Amy Adams down too, but in the wrong category). Can we do better this year? Or even worse? Find out below.

Supporting Actor

The Top 5

Robert Duvall (“The Judge”)
The Supporting Actor category is always a great place to recognize a veteran of the craft (see: Alan Arkin, Christopher Plummer), and this year, Robert Duvall might have an eye on that slot. The legendary character actor has been nominated six times and won once (for 1983’s “Tender Mercies“), but its been more than fifteen years since he last figured in (for 1998’s “A Civil Action“), so this year’s “The Judge” might provide another opportunity to honor him. The comedy-drama stars Robert Downey Jr. as a lawyer who returns home to defend his father, the local judge, from a murder charge. Duvall will play the father, which would appear to be a fairly meaty role. And while the director is the not-much-lauded-so-far David Dobkin (of “Wedding Crashers” and, uh, “Fred Claus” fame), there’s some prestige-y power below the line: a script from “Gran Torino” scribe Nick Schenck and “The King’s Speech” writer David Seidler, Janusz Kaminski lensing and Thomas Newman scoring. It may yet turn out to be a purely commercial play, but with Warner Bros. giving it the October release date they used for “Argo” and “Gravity,” this might be something more, and Duvall would appear to be the best shot at gold.

Idris Elba (“Beasts Of No Nation”)
In most other years, Idris Elba might well have been a nominee for “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom“—though the film was tepidly received by many, Elba still won raves. His next project sees him in a very different role, but could end up working out better —he’s producing and co-starring in “True Detective” director Cary Fukunaga‘s adaptation of child soldier novel “Beasts Of No Nation.” Elba will play the Commandant, the charismatic but devilish soldier who recruits and trains protagonists Agu and Strika. It’s a part that’s closer to Ralph Fiennes in “Schindler’s List” than to Nelson Mandela. Elba certainly has the chops to do something magnificent with it, especially when paired with Fukunaga —the only question is whether the film, which is only just getting before cameras, will be done and ready in time.

Christoph Waltz (“Big Eyes“)
Less than half a decade after his U.S. breakthrough, Christoph Waltz has two Best Supporting Actor Oscars. Could this be the year when he wins for playing something other than a loquacious German in a Quentin Tarantino film? In “Big Eyes,” Waltz takes the role of manipulative artist Walter Keane, who took the credit for his wife’s paintings, in Tim Burton‘s latest, and it’s potentially a piece of Americana that will show off a new side of the actor. Burton is not a big award magnet, but this seems to be something different, especially with The Weinstein Company on board. Waltz may yet campaign as lead (he’s probably keen on the upgrade), but his chances would likely be better here, especially as Adams is likely to be at the heart of the film’s push.

James Franco (“True Story“)
James Franco might not have managed to get a nod for “Spring Breakers” (not a huge surprise), but assuming the Academy have forgiven him for his hosting debacle a few years ago, he has a project on the way that might be more appealing to them. Rupert Goold‘s “True Story” is the, uh, true story of a journalist (Jonah Hill) who discovers that his identity had been stolen by Christian Longo (Franco), a man on the FBI Most Wanted List for the alleged killing his family. It’s a dark tale, backed by the makers of “12 Years A Slave,” but seems just accessible enough for awards season, and even if the film as a whole isn’t a Best Picture contender, Franco playing a murderer seems to be a meaty role, and certainly stands the best chance of recognition out of the thousand other movies he probably has out this year. It’ll be execution-dependent, but keep an eye out for this one.

Mark Ruffalo (“Foxcatcher”)
Speaking of dark true stories, there’s “Foxcatcher.” Only pulled from last year’s season late in the game, it’s likely to be a major player unless it truly disappoints, and has multiple acting nods possible. As we said earlier in the week, though Channing Tatum‘s character is the ostensible lead, it’s likely to be Steve Carell who campaigns in Best Actor. That means Tatum could go Supporting, but the Academy may not be ready to nominate him yet, which could make co-star Mark Ruffalo the better bet. Ruffalo’s a beloved actor who’s only ever been nominated once (for “The Kids Are All Right“), and the dramatic strength of the material alone (he plays Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz, who *spoiler* meets a tragic end at the hands of Carell’s character), would seem to make Ruffalo a contender. Furthermore, the actor had an impressive physical transformation and, like Carell, is borderline unrecognizable. Which helps.

The Next 5

Johnny Depp (“Into The Woods“)
Few casts this year are as expansive as the one for “Into The Woods.” And while “Nine” has left us cautious about the prospects of Rob Marshall‘s latest musical in general, it could still lead to acting nods (even that previous one got Penelope Cruz in Supporting Actress). Though Chris Pine, Billy Magnussen and Daniel Huttlestone are among the possibilities among the supporting males, the best bet probably comes with superstar Johnny Depp. He has a very small role, as the Wolf that tries to eat Red Riding Hood, but it comes with a killer number in “Hello Little Girl.”  Again, it’s not a big part, but that didn’t stop a for a nomination for Cruz in a similar sized part (or indeed, Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls” or John C. Reilly in “Chicago“).  

Liev Schreiber (“Pawn Sacrifice“)
On the long list of great actors who’ve never received an Oscar nomination, Liev Schreiber must nestle somewhere near the top. He’s as reliable as anyone out there, but none of his parts have ever quite had the right stuff to lead to Oscar buzz. That could change this year though: the Tony-winning “Ray Donovan” star has a potentially attention-grabbing supporting turn in “Pawn Sacrifice.” Written by “Eastern Promises” scribe Steven Knight, and directed by “Glory” helmer Ed Zwick, it’s the story of the Cold War-era battle between American chess whiz Bobby Fischer and Soviet mastermind Boris Spassky, with Tobey Maguire as the former and Schreiber as the latter. Zwick’s awards season track record is spotty, but the material is actor-friendly (in theory anyway), Schreiber is due, and we can see him doing something special with the part.

Josh Brolin (“Inherent Vice“)
After “The Master” went three-for-four in the acting categories in terms of nominations, we’ll be damned if we underrate the prospects of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s latest, which seems more accessible in many ways. “Inherent Vice” is admittedly more of a one-man show—it features characters orbiting Joaquin Phoenix‘s P.I., in true film noir style, but that doesn’t mean that a particularly colorful one couldn’t stand out. There are probably three major contenders, all previous nominees—Josh Brolin, who plays a thuggish cop, Benicio Del Toro as Phoenix’s attorney, and Owen Wilson (a screenplay nominee for “The Royal Tenenbaums,” let’s not forget), as the missing musician who sets the plot into motion. The latter two feel like they might be smaller parts, so let’s assume that Brolin is the one, but it’s possible that any of them could end up with the nod.

Bill Irwin (“Interstellar“)
Aside from Heath Ledger, no one has ever been nominated for an acting role in a Christopher Nolan film, but from everything we see and hear, “Interstellar” has more chances to change that than anything he’s made before. There are plenty of contenders in the sprawling all-star cast, though with the film under wraps it’s hard to say which one will break out. We believe that Matt Damon‘s role is a cameo, and we think that’s essentially true for Michael Caine too. It could be that Wes Bentley or Topher Grace are in for a Jared Leto-style surprise, but we’d be more certain about Casey Affleck given that he’s a previous nominee. Then there’s veteran John Lithgow, a two-time nominee who hasn’t figured in for thirty years (and who picked up raves for “Love Is Strange” at Sundance). But with a stronger shot there’s veteran Bill Irwin (“Rachel Getting Married“), a beloved theater actor less known in the movies, but who apparently has a role in this of a stature that belies how well-known he is (he’s billed fourth). We’re basically throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks, but in lieu of more solid information, it’s certainly worth considering all possibilities.

Albert Brooks (“A Most Violent Year”)
For a time, it seemed like Albert Brooks was going to be nominated for his career-reviving role as a crime boss in “Drive.” Sadly, the Academy didn’t come through, despite an SAG nomination, but Brooks is returning to dark territory as part of the ensemble of J.C. Chandor‘s “A Most Violent Year,” and it may be payback time. We’re expecting the film to be a fairly big player in general, and with certainly less head-smashing and eye-stabbing than “Drive,” it could put Brooks in a better position. The role as an attourney, originally intended for Stanley Tucci, sounds like it’ll play to his strengths while letting him flex his dramatic muscles, and that might be all he needs, given the extent to which he missed out last time around. Then again, we said that about his part in “This Is 40” too…

Honorable Mentions: The late James Gandolfini has another chance at a nod—his final filmed role, in Tom Hardy-starring crime thriller “The Drop” (formerly known as “Animal Rescue“) lands in early fall. But it’s probably a longer shot, given that he missed out for “Enough Said.” Speaking of Hardy, he’s starring in “Child 44,” which has a part for Paddy Considine that could prove awards-friendly if the film’s anything more than a genre picture.

Elsewhere, you could also keep an eye out for Aaron Paul in “Exodus,” Neil Patrick Harris in “Gone Girl,” Shia LaBeouf in “Fury,” Adam Driver in “This Is Where I Leave You” or “While We’re Young,” Ewan McGregor in “Jane Got A Gun,” Edward Norton in “Birdman,’ Domhnall Gleeson in “Unbroken,John Goodman in “The Gambler,” Toby Jones or Rhys Ifans in “Serena,” Kyle Chandler in “Carol,” Martin Sheen in “Trash,” Sam Riley in “Suite Française,” Matthias Schoenaerts for that film, “A Little Chaos,” or “Far From The Madding Crowd,” and Robert Pattinson for “Life.”

Best Supporting Actress

The Top 5

Meryl Streep (“Into The Woods”)
Another year, another strong possibility that Meryl Streep will be nominated. This year is something a little different—the actress has as many as four movies that have potential, but they’re all essentially supporting roles. “Suffragette” is probably the least likely to lead to a nomination, given that it’s already been stated that it’ll only be a cameo. Young adult adaptation “The Giver” is probably a stretch unless it turns out to be superb, while the nature of her role in Tommy Lee Jones‘ “The Homesman” isn’t yet known (though that alone could mean that it turns out to be the most dramatically potent). The best bet is certainly “Into The Woods,” in which she plays The Witch, a part that won Vanessa Williams a Tony nod in the 2002 Broadway revival of the show. Most productions have tended to give The Baker’s Wife (played by Emily Blunt in the film) the leading actress push, which is why we’ve put Streep here (she also stands a better chance of picking up a fourth Oscar if that’s the case), but don’t rule out her going lead either.

Anna Kendrick (“Into The Woods”)
As it happens, Streep isn’t the only possibility for a nomination for “Into The Woods“—the film’s a veritable smorgasbord of potential nominations for Supporting Actresses. If Emily Blunt doesn’t go lead she could figure in, while newcomers Mackenzie Mauzy and young Lilla Crawford, as Rapunzel and Red Riding Hood respectively, could end up being the ones. But our instinct is to go with Anna Kendrick, who is playing Cinderella, right now. It’s perhaps a slightly lighter part than some of the others, but it has more musical numbers to play with and its fair share of heartbreak near the end of the piece. Perhaps more importantly, it’s the first viable time (excluding “Pitch Perfect,” which wasn’t much of an Oscar movie) that Kendrick could be recognized for her musical talents, which helped her earn a Tony nod on Broadway. Like we said, any of the four above could join Streep if the film works, but Kendrick has our vote for now.

Octavia Spencer (“Get On Up”)
Tate Taylor
‘s “The Help” won Octavia Spencer a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and Viola Davis a Best Actress nod (she was defeated, semi-unexpectedly, by Meryl Streep), so it’s not surprising that the filmmaker has hired both actors for his follow-up, the James Brown biopic “Get On Up.” The only question is which one of them has the advantage when it comes to a nomination: Davis plays the singer’s mother Susie, who left when the singer was only four, so we’re going to give the benefit of the doubt to Spencer, who plays Brown’s Aunt Honey, who became his guardian, and worked as a madam in a brothel. It seems like there’ll be plenty of character to be getting on with, and Spencer’s a good match—could we see her become the female Christoph Waltz, winning a second Oscar for a film by the same director three years on?

Vanessa Redgrave (“Foxcatcher”)
We tipped this performance last year, but to recap briefly: Bennett Miller‘s latest has multiple characters that could lead to nominations, but only one is played by a bona-fide legendary actress. Vanessa Redgrave has six nominations in the last 45 years, including a win for 1977’s “Julia,” but hasn’t figured in since “Howards End” in 1993. Early buzz about her performance in “Coriolanus” never turned into anything, but in the Miller film, she’s got a small but powerful part as the mother of Carell’s schizophrenic millionaire. It could turn out to be too small to make an impact, depending on how it falls in the cutting room, but Redgrave’s still a big enough name that she certainly shouldn’t be discounted with material like this.

Felicity Jones (“Theory Of Everything“)
Felicity Jones has been rising for a while, but 2014 might be the year she finally explodes: coming off an excellent performance in “The Invisible Woman,” she’ll feature in the upcoming “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” just cropped up in “Girls,” and plays a supporting role in “True Story.” But her best chance at a nod definitely comes with “Theory Of Everything,” James Marsh‘s Stephen Hawking biopic said to focus on the relationship between the scientist and his wife. And depending on how far they go, there’s a lot of drama to the romance—the couple met shortly after Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease ALS and given two years to live, and he credited her for giving him something to live for. After his disability worsened, their marriage became semi-open as she began a relationship with a church organist, only for Hawking to eventually leave her for his nurse in the 1990s. It’s unclear how much of the story the film will tell, but with Jones in the role, it’s certain not to just be a thankless-wife part.

The Next 5

Kristin Scott Thomas (“Suite Française”)

Though the novel is a sprawling ensemble tale, it’s no secret that “Suite Française” looks to be very much the Michelle Williams show. But that doesn’t mean that it’s all it has to offer the awards season, particularly it has a ton of top-notch actresses in support — Eileen Atkins, Ruth Wilson, Margot Robbie and Alexandra Maria Lara (the latter two of whom both gave awards-worthy performances last year, in “The Wolf Of Wall Street” and “Rush” respectively) all feature. But we have a feeling that Kristin Scott Thomas is the one to watch here. Her part, as Williams’ spiky mother-in-law, is more promising than some of the others, and the actress has been doing sterling work that’s gone unrewarded for a while.  Her recent talk of retirement could help or hurt her case, but this is potentially her best chance at a nod in some time.

Carrie Coon (“Gone Girl”)
We’ll confess that we’re also only faintly aware of actress Carrie Coon. But she’ll be better known by the end of the year, with a key role in HBO‘s “The Leftovers” coming up. She is also a Tony nominee (for playing Honey in “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf“), and maybe more importantly, she has a crucial role in David Fincher‘s “Gone Girl.” The actress is playing Margo, the twin sister and confidante of Ben Affleck‘s character and, from the book anyway, there’s more than enough color to the role to make it nominatable. This is a category that can be kind to undersung character actresses (Marcia Gay Harden, Melissa Leo, Amy Ryan), so Coon’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.  

Brie Larson (“The Gambler”)
Brie Larson‘s absence from this year’s Oscar short-list for “Short Term 12″ was nothing short of a disgrace. But with the strength of that performance, and of the others she’s given, it’s only a matter of time before she makes the cut, and the opportunity could arrive in the form of Rupert Wyatt‘s “The Gambler.” A remake of Karel Reisz’s 1974 picture (once mooted for Martin Scorsese), it sees Larson play the student of gambling-addict college professor Mark Wahlberg, with whom he’s in love, and is probably the most high-profile studio gig yet for the rising actress. The film hasn’t yet been dated by Paramount, so it’s possible that it falls into next season (then again, the success of “The Wolf Of Wall Street” might see them push it into the awards race), and with Jessica Lange playing Wahlberg’s mother, it might be that she supersedes Larson. But for now, we’re team Brie.

Jane Fonda (“This Is Where I Leave You”)
How divisive is Jane Fonda these days? The 76-year-old star hasn’t been forgiven in some quarters for being Hanoi Jane, but that doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference to the Academy—of her two Oscars and seven total nominations, one win and five nods came after the end of the Vietnam war, which suggests that AMPAS never really cared about her politics. It’s more than 25 years since Fonda was last nominated, but she could have her best chance in a long time thanks to family drama “This Is Where I Leave You,” in which she plays the matriarch of a Jewish clan (including Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll) gathered together to commemorate the passing of their father. It’s the kind of movie that’s been tried many times and often doesn’t work (“The Family Stone” et al), and the presence of “Date Night” director Shawn Levy in the doesn’t suggest this’ll be the exception. But the caliber of the cast, Fonda included, might suggest otherwise, and the chance to give her another nomination might be too much for the Academy to resist.

Hailee Steinfeld (“The Homesman“)
Four years back, Hailee Steinfeld landed an Oscar nomination, aged only 13, for her outstanding breakout performance in the Coens’ “True Grit.” So the news that she’s literally back on the horse for another Western alone is promising. That she’s doing so in one by Tommy Lee Jones, and playing a mentally ill woman being escorted by Jones and Hilary Swank‘s characters, makes this even more potent a possibility. The film is still under the radar enough that it could turn out that Steinfeld’s part isn’t “the one” for the project—and of course, the film could yet disappoint. It’s also true that Steinfeld’s post-‘Grit’ career choices have mostly disappointed. But between this and TIFF favorite “Can A Song Save Your Life?,” she’s likely to be more visible than she’s been for a while, so this is one to keep an eye on.

Honorable Mentions: Also viable options, so far at least, are Jessica Chastain or Ellen Burstyn for “Interstellar,” Keira Knightley for “The Imitation Game,” Emma Stone or Naomi Watts for “Birdman,” Jena Malone or Katherine Waterston for “Inherent Vice,” Annette Bening for “The Search,” Rooney Mara for “Trash” and Sarah Paulson for “Carol.” Anyone we’ve forgotten? You know where the comments section is.

Read all our Premature Predictions pieces here.

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