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Category Swaps Solidify Best Actress Being a Race Between a Handful of Contenders

Rooney Mara enters the Best Actress race, Carey Mulligan exits, and few Oscar contenders seem certain to go the distance.


Danielle Deadwyler in “Till”


This article contains IndieWire’s past Best Actress predictions for the 2023 Oscars. We regularly update our predictions throughout awards season, and republish previous versions (like this one) for readers to track changes in how the Oscar race has changed. For the latest update on the frontrunners for the 95th Academy Awards, see our 2023 Oscars predictions hub.

We will update these predictions throughout awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks. Nominations voting is from January 12 to January 17, 2023, with official Oscar nominations announced on January 24, 2023. The final voting is March 2 through 7, 2023.  And finally, the 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT.

See our initial thoughts for what to expect at the 95th Academy Awards here.

The State of the Race

At this stage of awards season, many acting contenders are still in the process of determining which categories they’ll compete in. The situation has become especially complex for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.

Shortly after the world premiere of “She Said” at New York Film Festival, the film depicting the work that went into the 2017 New York Times investigation of disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, it was announced by Universal Pictures that one of the film’s leads, Carey Mulligan, would campaign for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar instead. It’s an even stranger decision than the recent one to move Michelle Williams’ supportive mother role in “The Fabelmans” (coincidentally, another Universal release) into Best Actress contention.

Zoe Kazan certainly does a fine job in “She Said,” but anyone seeing that film knowing nothing about its awards campaign would guess she would be the one of the two to move to Best Supporting Actress. Mulligan is the one that ultimately comes face to face with Weinstein, while Kazan takes a more passive role. First, in acting as a mentee to her co-star, and then in all those crucial reporting scenes where her primary task is to make her sources (played by many compelling supporting actors and actresses like Zach Grenier and Jennifer Ehle) feel completely seen and heard in their most vulnerable moments. In a year where other lead actresses are taking such big swings, Kazan’s gentle work is overshadowed. Even Williams has more justification for her positioning given how she steals nearly every scene she’s in.

The byproduct of all this back-and-forth has helped solidify that Best Actress is a race between a handful of contenders. There’s the smoldering work Cate Blanchett does as a difficult genius “TÁR,” and the electrifying performance Michelle Yeoh gives in multiversal adventure “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Williams and Viola Davis, who shines as the leader of an all-female group of African warriors in “The Woman King,” are not far behind, especially since they are both perceived as being overdue a Best Actress Oscar (they’ve both been nominated in the category twice).

Rooney Mara Women Talking

“Women Talking”

Michael Gibson

That fifth slot is all but undecided. There’s Jennifer Lawrence’s return to a more naturalistic approach, playing a combat veteran in Apple TV+ drama “Causeway.” Oscar winner Olivia Colman could swoop in for her fourth nomination in five years, despite the mixed reviews for “Empire of Light.” Rooney Mara is now the only member of the “Women Talking” ensemble to campaign for Best Actress, which could work out in her favor.

However, right now the edge goes to “Till” star Danielle Deadwyler. Her performance as Emmett Till’s grieving, budding activist mother is much stronger than the movie as a whole, but “Till” enjoyed a strong opening weekend in limited release, so the chances that more voters will check out Deadwyler’s undeniable work is trending upwards. It also benefits from the support of James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, as well as co-producer Whoopi Goldberg, who also happens to be an Academy Governor.

All in all, this makes for a clearer picture of the Best Actress race, even as a few variables remain to be seen.

Contenders are listed in alphabetical order, below. No actor will be deemed a frontrunner until we have seen the film.

Cate Blanchett (“TÁR”)
Viola Davis (“The Woman King”)
Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”)
Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”)
Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)

Olivia Colman (“Empire of Light”)
Zoe Kazan (“She Said”)
Vicky Krieps (“Corsage”)
Jennifer Lawrence (“Causeway”)
Rooney Mara (“Women Talking”)
Margot Robbie (“Babylon”)

Naomi Ackie (“I Wanna Dance with Somebody”)
Jessica Chastain (“The Good Nurse”)
Ana de Armas (“Blonde”)
Anna Diop (“Nanny”)
Zar Amir Ebrahimi (“Holy Spider”)
Taylor Russell (“Bones and All”)
Keke Palmer (“Nope”)
Florence Pugh (“The Wonder”)
Zoe Saldana (“Avatar: The Way of Water”)
Emma Thompson (“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”)
Tang Wei (“Decision to Leave”)

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