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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 October 17, 2019.

"The Irishman"

“The Irishman”


Some studios premiere their movies in Cannes as a launch pad for international release. That’s the case with Quentin Tarantino’s global juggernaut, the 1969 showbiz epic “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which arguably boasts two leads, with Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio in the juicier role about an anxious fading western star, alongside Brad Pitt as his loyal (and dangerous) stuntman and driver. Sony will likely put Pitt in supporting, as he also stars in space epic “Ad Astra.” (The other supporting roles, from virtually silent Margot Robbie to Al Pacino and Bruce Dern, may not be big enough.) Pitt could win.

Also arguably starring in two rich, dialogue-spouting lead roles are Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in Cannes international critics’ prize-winner “The Lighthouse” (October 18, 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.” He kept a beard for his proper supporting role in writer-director-star Edward Norton’s 50s noir “Motherless Brooklyn “(November 1, Warner Bros.), adapted from Jonathan Lethem’s novel. Who’s got the juiciest supporting role? The cast of characters is impressive, from Dafoe to a showy Alec Baldwin as his Robert Moses-like brother.

Pattinson also scored strong reviews for his supporting role as the foppish Dauphin of France opposite Timothée Chalamet as Henry V in David Michôd’s Shakespearean “The King” (Netflix).

Launching 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.

Breaking out at Telluride was Anthony Hopkins’ supporting role as Pope Benedict to Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis in Fernando Meirelles’ “The Two Popes” (Netflix), written by two-time Oscar-nominee Anthony McCarten (“Theory of Everything,” “Darkest Hour”).

“Ford v Ferrari”

Another Telluride hit was James Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari” (November 15, Disney/Fox), co-starring 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. Damon and Bale should be equal Best Actor contenders, but the awards campaigners could place Damon in supporting.

Playing a familiar figure is Oscar-winner Tom Hanks (“Forrest Gump,” “Philadelphia”), who seems perfectly cast as beloved children’s show host Fred Rogers (subject of 2018 documentary breakout “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”) in Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (November 22, Sony). The movie is about an Esquire writer (Matthew Rhys) who changes his views when assigned to profile Rogers. Despite his remarkable recent filmography, Hanks hasn’t been nominated since “Castaway” in 2001.

Two veteran stars could pop out of the rich cast assembled by Martin Scorsese for “The Irishman” (November 1, Netflix), starring Robert De Niro in the title role; “Goodfellas” star Joe Pesci as a mafia boss and Scorsese first-timer Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa, who is the most heroic figure in the film. All succumb to elaborate de-aging VFX.

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? And McKellen could be lead or supporting for his role in “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, directed by his “Gods and Monsters’ director Bill Condon.

Chalamet also turns up in a supporting role 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.

Also coming at year’s end is Jay Roach’s “Bombshell” (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.


Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”)
Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes”)
Al Pacino (“The Irishman”)
Joe Pesci (“The Irishman”)
Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)


Alec Baldwin (“Motherless Brooklyn”)
Jamie Bell (“Rocketman”)
Timothée Chalamet (“Little Women”)
Willem Dafoe (“The Lighthouse”)
Matt Damon (“Ford v Ferrari”)
Idris Elba (“Cats”)
Tracy Letts (“Ford v Ferrari”)
John Lithgow (“Bombshell”)
Ian McKellen (“Cats,” “The Good Liar”)
Robert Pattinson (“The King”)

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