The possibilities are already endless in this particular race, as the fall film festivals have (somewhat) narrowed down a long list of possible Supporting Actor contenders, while several Oscar perennials are looking for yet another nod.
Vying for their second acting Oscars: Jared Leto (“The Dallas Buyers Club”) gets back into the makeup chair as a fashionmonger in “House of Gucci” (MGM/UA) and Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”) dominates Aretha Franklin (Jennifer Hudson) as her powerful womanizing father in biopic “Respect” (MGM/UA). Elsewhere, seeking his second nomination is Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”) as a scheming televangelist in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight).
Looking for a win after multiple acting nominations: long overdue Bradley Cooper plays a supporting role as a producer in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ’70s high school comedy “Licorice Pizza”; actor’s actor Richard Jenkins stars in both con-artist drama “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight) and the stage-to-screen family drama “The Humans” (A24); and Willem Dafoe stars in both Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” and Paul Schrader’s “The Card Counter.”
And there are plenty of stars looking for their first Oscar acting mentions: Kodi Smit-McPhee plays an enigmatic young medical student who joins his mother (Kirsten Dunst) and her new husband (Jesse Plemons) on a Montana cattle ranch in Jane Campion’s festival hit “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix); Oscar Isaac plays the powerful, conflicted royal parent of Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides in sci-fi epic “Dune” (Warner Bros.); Idris Elba is an outlaw gunslinger released from prison in revisionist western “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix), the London Film Festival opener.
The possibilities don’t stop there: Belfast-born veteran stage star Ciaran Hinds (“Persuasion”) plays opposite Dame Judi Dench as the doting grandparents to young Buddy (Jude Hill) in Kenneth Branagh’s festival hit, ’60s remembrance “Belfast” (Focus); deaf theater and film actor Troy Kotsur is hilarious opposite Oscar-winner Marlee Maitlin as the parents of a budding singer (Emilia Jones) in Sundance prize-winner “CODA” (Apple TV+); André Holland plays the doctor husband of Tessa Thompson in Rebecca Hall’s racial drama “Passing” (Netflix), which debuted at Sundance and played NYFF; Jason Isaacs and Reed Birney, along with their co-stars Ann Dowd and Martha Plimpton, are vying in the supporting category for actors’ showcase “Mass” (Bleecker Street); and Kelvin Harrison, Jr. plays a witless soldier wooing the sophisticated Roxanne with help from the brilliant “Cyrano” (Peter Dinklage), the theater-to-film musical (MGM-UA) from Joe Wright.
And with several possible entries, Oscar-winning producer-writer Ben Affleck (“Argo,” “Good Will Hunting”) seeks his first acting nod as the charming bartender uncle of Tye Sheridan in George Clooney’s heart-tugger “The Tender Bar” (Amazon), as well a powerful royal with a lusty appetite for women in Ridley Scott’s medieval action-drama “The Last Duel” (Disney).
Corey Hawkins breaks out in two movies, as Macduff in Joel Coen’s new Shakespeare take “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (A24/AppleTV+) and in Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Miranda’s “In the Heights” (Warner Bros.). Of Jon Bernthal’s three supporting roles this year, including “The Unforgivable” (Netflix), “The Sopranos” origin story “The Many Saints of Newark” (Warner Bros.), and tennis saga “King Richard,” the latter is the most likely to land him a slot for his juicy role as Rick Macci, the hard-driving coach of Venus and Serena Williams.
Contenders are listed in alphabetical order. Only films I have seen will be deemed frontrunners.
Ben Affleck (“The Tender Bar,” “The Last Duel”)
Jon Bernthal (“King Richard”)
Corey Hawkins (“In the Heights,” “The Tragedy of Macbeth”)
Ciaran Hinds (“Belfast”)
Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”)
David Alvarez (“West Side Story”)
Bradley Cooper (“Licorice Pizza”)
Willem Dafoe (“Nightmare Alley,” “The Card Counter”)
Idris Elba (“The Harder They Fall”)
Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (“Cyrano”)
Oscar Isaac (“Dune”)
Richard Jenkins (“The Humans,” “Nightmare Alley”)
Jared Leto (“House of Gucci”)
Bradley Whitford (“Tick, Tick, Boom”)
Reed Birney (“Mass”)
Benicio Del Toro (“The French Dispatch”)
Richard E. Grant (“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”)
Jonah Hill (“Don’t Look Up”)
Vincent D’Onofrio (“The Unforgivable”)
Simon Helberg (“Annette”)
Jason Isaacs (“Mass”)
Ben Mendelsohn (“Cyrano”)
Al Pacino (“House of Gucci”)
Jesse Plemons (“The Power of the Dog”)
Mark Rylance (“Don’t Look Up”)
J.K. Simmons (“Being the Ricardos”)
David Strathairn (“Nightmare Alley”)
Forest Whitaker (“Respect”)
Jeffrey Wright (“The French Dispatch”)