Any actor chasing a Best Supporting Actor slot will have to unseat Brad Pitt, who is currently favored to win for his cooly masculine stuntman Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s elegiac bromance “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” It’s official: Sony is campaigning Pitt for his fourth acting nomination in the supporting category, while Leonardo DiCaprio is going lead.
It makes sense for Pitt to take this route, partly because Booth plays a subservient role in the film to TV star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio). Pitt has a better shot at a win than DiCaprio, who recently won Best Actor for “The Revenant.”
Similarly, Sony placed “The Americans” star Matthew Rhys in lead and Tom Hanks in supporting for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Both are fair calls. Although Fred Rogers’ story is the star, the movie is really about the Esquire writer who profiled him.
Another movie starring equally matched actors is Robert Eggers’ claustrophobic, Herman Melville-inspired two-hander “The Lighthouse.” A24 decided to place rising star Robert Pattinson (“The Batman”) in the lead, with Oscar perennial Willem Dafoe in supporting. Pattinson scored some strong reviews for his supporting role as the French dauphin in “The King,” opposite Timothée Chalamet, who will vie for lead in that role and supporting for “Little Women.” Dafoe, meanwhile, also plays a hirsute supporting role in Edward Norton’s “Motherless Brooklyn.”
And Netflix opted to place the veteran stars of its two-hander “The Two Popes” into two categories: never-nominated Jonathan Pryce (as protagonist Pope Francis) with more screen time will be lead, with Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins (as antagonist Pope Benedict) in supporting.
And this week the decision makers behind “Ford v Ferrari” (Fox/Disney) finally opted to put their equal leads in the race for Best Actor. It’s a crowded field, but the story is so evenly balanced between Matt Damon as car designer Carroll Shelby (three acting nominations, one Original Screenplay win for “Good Will Hunting”) and Christian Bale as race car driver Ken Miles (four acting nominations and one win, for Supporting Actor for “The Fighter”), that it’s impossible to justify one supporting the other. Besides, Pitt’s likely to win Supporting anyway.