Look out, George. Step aside, Brad. There’s a new stallion in the Oscar derby for Best Actor. Two-time nominee Woody Harrelson charges out of the starting gate with a searing performance as a slowly unraveling bad cop in the yet-to-be released “Rampart.” He already ranks among the top 10 contenders with odds of 15-to-2.
Movieline notes Harrelson’s performance is “disarming, at times borderline unhinged—the actor’s unlikability fuses with Harrelson’s innate ragamuffin charm, and the result is both unnerving and alluring.” And says Sasha Stone (AwardsDaily), “Woody Harrelson enters the Oscar race in a big way,” However, Jeff Wells (Hollywood Elsewhere) believes a nomination for Harrelson “may not fly all the way due to the generally grim tone and the lack of what your average Academy member would call a satisfying conclusion.”
Harrelson was previously nominated as Best Actor in 1996 for his raucous embodiment of Larry Flynt in “The People vs. Larry Flynt.” His second turn at bat arrived 14 years later when he received a supporting-actor bid for “The Messenger.” That film also earned a screenplay bid for Alessandro Camon and helmer Oren Moverman, the latter of whom also directed “Rampart” and co-wrote the script with acclaimed crime novelist James Ellroy (expect them to figure in the Oscar derby, too).
As a recent nominee, Harrelson has a leg up with Academy members who undoubtedly still remember how much they liked him just two years ago. And Oscar voters have shown, time and again, they cannot resist recognizing bad cops (notably Denzel Washington‘s winning turn in “Training Day”) and tough guys such as Jeff Bridges (nominee: “True Grit”); Daniel Day Lewis (winner: “There Will Be Blood” and nominee: “Gangs of New York”); Viggo Mortensen (nominee: “Eastern Promises”); Forest Whitaker (winner: “The Last King of Scotland”); Edward Norton (nominee: “American History X”) and Russell Crowe (winner: “Gladiator”).
And that’s just leading actors! In the supporting category, Joe Pesci, Jack Palance, Gene Hackman, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Spacey, James Coburn, Benicio Del Toro, Javier Bardem, Heath Ledger, Christoph Waltz and Christian Bale have all won Oscars for playing bad guys or tough hombres.
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