The game is afoot in the Emmy race for Best Movie/Mini Actor. Eight of the 13 Experts polled by Gold Derby believe that a little-known British actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, is out front for portraying a modern update of Sherlock Holmes. However, four bet on Kevin Costner as “Devil” Anse Hatfield in “Hatfields and McCoys.”
The bias toward Cumberbatch shouldn’t be a surprise considering the profession of the experts – they’re TV journalists, who’ve gushed rapturously over the sleuth series, which won Best Mini from both the Television Critics Assn. and BAFTA last year. They also cheered the surprise success of “Hatfields and McCoys.”
However, Emmy voters tend to prefer contenders like British superstar Clive Owen as Yankee literary icon Ernest Hemingway in “Hemingway and Gellhorn.” Two experts predict he’ll win. One opts for Woody Harrelson as Sarah Palin campaign aide Steve Schmidt in “Game Change.”
Compare them to the rankings and odds of Gold Derby’s Editors, who split thus: three for Harrelson, three for Owen, two for Cumberbatch, one for Costner and one for Idris Elba (“Luther“). The sixth nominee, Bill Paxton (“Hatfields and McCoys”) receives no first-place votes from our experts or editors.
Gold Derby’s Users rank the contenders in this order: Cumberbatch, Owen, Harrelson, Elba, Costner and Paxton.
This category has been very friendly to performances that have portrayed real life people. In the past 25 years, 18 performances have won that were based on real people. That gives four of this year’s nominees a leg up in the competition. In the same 25 years only seven winners were also Oscar winners. Costner did win two Oscars but neither of them were for acting. Let’s look at each of the contenders’ strengths and weaknesses.
Kevin Costner, “Hatfields & McCoys”
Costner portrays “Devil” Anse Hatfield, the patriarch of a post-Civil War family in West Virginia in a heated rivalry with the McCoy clan of Kentucky. It’s his first nomination.
Pro: Costner gives a more emotional performance, is a veteran actor (despite some of his films) and plays a real life character.
Con: He is competing against his co-star, Bill Paxton.
Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia” (Masterpiece)
Cumberbatch earns his first nomination for playing a modern version of the classic detective in a mystery with a seductive woman.
Pro: Cumberbatch provides a reimagining of Holmes that is clever and witty. The fact that it’s a British performance might help with those snobbish Emmy voters.
Con: Cumberbatch does well but the performance is not particularly showy.
Pro: Elba is a British actor who gives an intense performance as the detective and also is coming off his win at the Golden Globes in January.
Con: The material is dark and it’s been over a year since the episodes aired.
Woody Harrelson, “Game Change”
Harrelson earns his first nomination for not playing Woody Boyd after a win in 1989 and five other nominations for playing the character. He plays Republican strategist Steve Schmidt.
Pro: He plays a real political person and it is an election year so it couldn’t hurt. And if enough liberals in the academy are voting on this, those scenes where his character scolds Gov. Palin (Julianne Moore) could prove too much to resist!
Con: He always feels overshadowed by Moore’s performance.
Clive Owen, “Hemingway & Gellhorn”
Owen earns his first nomination for playing the American literary icon Ernest Hemingway during his years long relationship with journalist Martha Gellhorn.
Pro: He plays a real person who was known as an over the top character and definitely delivers on those characteristics.
Con: His character is quite a jerk a lot of the time and Nicole Kidman’s performance can feel like it’s overshadowing Owen’s.
Bill Paxton, “Hatfields & McCoys”
Paxton earns his first nomination for playing Randall McCoy, the patriarch of the McCoy family of Kentucky.
Pro: He plays a real person who allows hatred to consume him in his rivalry with the Hatfield clan. Some voters could also feel he’s overdue after never being nominated for “Big Love”.
Con: His performance is one that is more subtle than his nominated co-star Kevin Costner, who sometimes overshadows him with his emotional performance.