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Oscars 2020: Best Supporting Actor Predictions

Film festivals bring the long list of possible supporting actor candidates into clearer focus. Updated on July 11. 2019.

Gary OldmanThe Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon, Los Angeles, USA - 05 Feb 2018

Gary Oldman

Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock

It’s way too early to predict the Oscars, especially in the supporting categories. But looking at Hollywood’s upcoming slates sight unseen, which movies have the right stuff to go the distance?

Studios tend to premiere their movies in Cannes as a launch pad for international release. That’s the case with Quentin Tarantino’s globally appealing 1969 showbiz epic “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which arguably boasts two leads, with Leonardo DiCaprio starring in the juicier role about an anxious fading western star, alongside Brad Pitt as his loyal stuntman and driver. Will Sony put Pitt in supporting? (None of the other supporting roles, from Al Pacino to Bruce Dern, are big enough.)

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Also arguably starring in two rich, dialogue-spouting lead roles are Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in Cannes international critics’ prize-winner “The Lighthouse” (A24). But veteran actor’s actor Dafoe could wind up in supporting–he’s overdue after four Oscar nominations and two back-to-back nods for “Florida Project” and “At Eternity’s Gate.”

Playing well out of competition at Cannes was “Rocketman” (May 31, Paramount), Dexter Fletcher’s follow-up to $900-million juggernaut “Bohemian Rhapsody,” starring Taron Egerton as Elton John as well as Jamie Bell as his devoted friend and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, and Richard Madden as John’s seductive manager and lover. Bell is the best shot for a supporting slot.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Paramount Pictures/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (10242450a) Taron Egerton as Elton John and Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin 'Rocketman' Film - 2019 A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John's breakthrough years.

Taron Egerton as Elton John and Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin
‘Rocketman’ Film – 2019

Paramount Pictures/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Pacino could pop out of the rich cast assembled by Martin Scorsese for “The Irishman” (Netflix), starring Robert De Niro in the title role, which includes Scorsese veterans Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel — as well as Bobby Cannavale. The movie may or may not be finished in time (due to elaborate de-aging VFX) to be revealed at fall festivals.

John Crowley’s adaptation of Donna Tartt’s bestseller “The Goldfinch” starring Ansel Elgort hits theaters October 11 (Warner Bros.) with a large supporting cast including Jeffrey Wright.

Oscar nominee Dev Patel (“Lion”) takes on the title role in Armando Iannucci and Simon Blackwell’s Dickens adaptation “The Personal History of David Copperfield” (FilmNation, fall), opposite Tilda Swinton, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw, and Gwendoline Christie, which should turn up at fall festivals seeking distribution. Capaldi and Whishaw as indelible Dickens characters Mr. Micawber and Uriah Heep, respectively, could be supporting actor contenders.

Three-time acting nominee Edward Norton (“Birdman”) takes on acting, writing and directing with his sophomore film, fifties drama “Motherless Brooklyn” (November 1, Warner Bros.), adapted from Jonathan Lethem’s novel. Norton plays the title role of an isolated private detective Lionel Essrog with Tourette’s Syndrome who tries to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, played by Bruce Willis. Who’s got the juiciest supporting role? The cast of characters is impressive, from Willis, Dafoe and Alec Baldwin to Bobby Cannavale.

Willem DafoeThe Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon, Los Angeles, USA - 05 Feb 2018

Willem Dafoe at the 2018 Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon

Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock

Dafoe’s meatier performance may be as the dying father of Anne Hathaway in Dee Ree’s adaptation of the Joan Didion novel “The Last Thing He Wanted” (fall, Netflix). He leaves his daughter some unfinished covert government operations to complete.

Also for Netflix is Anthony Hopkins’ supporting role as Pope Benedict to Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis in Fernando Meirelles’ “The Pope” (fall), written by two-time Oscar-nominee Anthony McCarten (“Theory of Everything,” “Darkest Hour”).

Slated for fall is James Mangold’s “Ford v. Ferrari” (November 15, Disney/Fox) costarring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, with a large supporting cast including Tracy Letts as Henry Ford II, who hires the best car designer and race car driver in the world, respectively, to help him beat Ferrari at LeMans.

Heading for the holidays is Tom Hooper’s VFX-crammed musical “Cats” (December 20, Universal), co-starring Idris Elba and Ian McKellen in key mocap supporting roles as Macavity and Gus the theatre cat, respectively, whose faces and bodies will be covered with VFX fur and costumes. Will they be judged as live-action actors or voices? McKellen could be lead or supporting for his role in his “Gods and Monsters’ director Bill Condon’s “The Good Liar” (November 15, Warner Bros.) as a wily con man who falls for the wealthy woman (Helen MIrren) he’s trying to marry.

Gary Oldman is also a supporting player in Steven Soderbergh’s Netflix drama “The Laundromat,” starring Meryl Streep (Netflix, fall). Also from Netflix is respected Australian filmmaker David Michôd’s take on Henry V, “The King” (fall), starring Timothée Chalamet, with support from Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn, and Robert Pattinson.

Chalamet will also turn up as Laurie to Saoirse Ronan’s Jo in “Little Women” (December 25, Sony), Greta Gerwig’s follow-up to “Lady Bird,” in which Chalamet also starred. Sony will eventually figure out whether the actor is lead or supporting.

Also coming at year’s end is Jay Roach’s “Fair Game” (Lionsgate, December 20) with John Lithgow as the controversial Fox News chief Roger Ailes, whose role may wind up lead or supporting.

Contenders are listed in alphabetical order; no film will be deemed a frontrunner until I have seen it.


Jamie Bell (“Rocketman”)
Willem Dafoe (“The Lighthouse”)
Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)


Alec Baldwin (“Motherless Brooklyn”)
Bobby Cannavale (“Motherless Brooklyn,” “The Irishman”)
Peter Capaldi (“The Personal Life of David Copperfield”)
Timothée Chalamet (“Little Women”)
Willem Dafoe (“Motherless Brooklyn,” “The Last Thing He Wanted”)
Joel Edgerton (“The King”)
Idris Elba (“Cats”)
Anthony Hopkins (“The Pope”)
Tracy Letts (“Ford v. Ferrari”)
John Lithgow (“Fair and Balanced”)
Anthony Mackie (“Woman in the Window”)
Ian McKellen (“Cats,” “The Good Liar”)
Ben Mendelsohn (“The King”)
Gary Oldman (“The Laundromat”)
Al Pacino (“The Irishman”)
Robert Pattinson (“The King”)
Joe Pesci (“The Irishman”)
Ben Whishaw (“The Personal History of David Copperfield”)
Jeffrey Wright (The Goldfinch”)

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