Five reasons why Leonardo DiCaprio won’t win Best Actor at Oscars

When Tom O’Neil told me that he had switched his Best Actor prediction from Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club” to Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” I was thrilled.

After all, it’s simply no fun when the pundits agree on everything. Some of us have to be willing to try and call the longshots, even if it means that we’ll sometimes be wrong. (Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour,” anyone?)

As O’Neil keeps saying, it’s unlikely that everything will go as scripted on Oscar night. There’s bound to be at least one big surprise. Maybe Best Actor will be it. But after reading his analysis, I have to admit that I’m just not convinced. Below, the top five flaws that I see in his case for DiCaprio.

1. O’Neil assumes that support for frontrunner McConaughey is less than solid
When upsets in the major categories occur, it’s typically because support for the perceived frontrunner is soft. (Think Lauren Bacall in “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” Kate Hudson in “Almost Famous,” Julie Christie in “Away from Her” and Tommy Lee Jones in “Lincoln”)

In this case, we do have someone (McConaughey) who appears to have a comfortable lead. Is there any reason to think otherwise? He’s won both the Golden Globe and SAG Awards, which almost always equals Oscar. He plays a real person who also has a disease. He is physically transformed onscreen. He gives a flashy performance in a Best Picture nominee that reaped bids in key categories like Original Screenplay and Film Editing. He gets bonus points for his work in “Mud” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” not to mention his current visibility in HBO’s “True Detective.”

Where does McConaughey go wrong?

Is it because of his history doing silly romantic comedies? Is it because it’s his first nomination? The career turnaround might actually add to his appeal, and plenty of people have won on their first Oscar bid. (Look at Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side” four years ago.)

Plus, the anti-McConaughey vote is not automatically going to DiCaprio. This is an extremely competitive category, with both Bruce Dern in “Nebraska” and BAFTA champ Chiwetel Ejiofor  in “12 Years a Slave” bound to get a fair share of the vote. It’s hard to see DiCaprio suddenly getting past all four other contenders.
 

2. DiCaprio’s lack of a SAG nomination is too important to overlook
No one has ever won a lead acting Oscar after missing out at SAG. Yes, as Gold Derby readers keep pointing out, Christoph Waltz failed at SAG last year because he was submitted (rightfully) as lead rather than supporting. (He then won the Oscar in a contest lacking a Globe/SAG combined champion.)

O’Neil himself admitted that he moved Robert Redford in “All Is Lost” out of his number one position after Redford was overlooked by SAG. Sasha Stone at Awards Daily has pointed out that the only male to take the Globe and SAG lead trophies and then lose the Oscar was Russell Crowe in 2001’s “A Beautiful Mind.” As we all know, that was a result of his bad boy behavior more than anything else.

Bottom line: McConaughey’s SAG victory and DiCaprio’s SAG omission give us a pretty good hint at the Oscar outcome.
 

3. The campaigning is unlikely to alter the race significantly
O’Neil says that in his opinion, “Leo has run a much smoother and more aggressive campaign.” Let’s say that’s true. But is DiCaprio really going to steal that many votes away from McConaughey?

In a close, close race the campaigning might make a difference. Or in a race with a relative unknown, a la Marion Cotillard in 2007’s “La Vie en Rose.” (She was quite visible on the LA circuit in the weeks before that year’s Academy Awards.)

In this case, voters know both actors and have seen their films. And it’s not like McConaughey has been invisible. His ultimate campaign strategy? Victory speeches at both the Globe and SAG ceremonies. (No amount of baby-kissing can top that.)
 

4. DiCaprio’s “overdue status” is not a major factor 
Is the actor overdue for Oscar recognition?

Absolutely.

He should have won for his astonishing portrayal of a mentally disabled teen in 1993’s “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” And he should have at least been nominated for his standout turns in “Titanic,” “Revolutionary Road” and “Django Unchained,” among others.

However, there’s a long list of actors and actresses who are overdue, and the academy has become less inclined to give out trophies just because it’s someone’s “turn to win.” Also, the perception that DiCaprio is still relatively young and will receive the Oscar “eventually” may be accurate. Notice how O’Neil constantly refers to the 39-year-old actor as “Leo,” suggesting that he’s still a boy. If academy members think of DiCaprio the same way, then “Leo” may be out of luck again this year.
 

5. DiCaprio’s stardom does not earn him Oscar votes
O’Neil claims that the actor is “arguably the biggest movie star in the world giving the biggest performance of his career in the most talked-about film of the year.” Let’s assume that all of this is true. Does stardom really matter?

If big stars always win, then how did both George Clooney in “The Descendants” and Brad Pitt in “Moneyball” lose to unknown Jean Dujardin in “The Artist” two years ago? Why don’t Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp and Hugh Jackman have Oscars?

If it’s due to O’Neil’s famous “slap the stud theory,” then why would DiCaprio suddenly win this year? And while “Wolf” may be one of MANY of the year’s most talked-about films, it’s also one of the most polarizing. There’s no chance that it will pull off a surprise Best Picture sweep and carry the actor in with it. Stardom aside, DiCaprio may regrettably be left twenty feet from Oscar on Hollywood’s upcoming big night.

Who do you think is going to win Best Actor? Vote below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. Come back and change your predictions as often as you like till Oscar night, March 2.

23 thoughts on “Five reasons why Leonardo DiCaprio won’t win Best Actor at Oscars

  1. First things first, Tariq Khan has totally nailed this post. Second, you never know with the Academy voters. An upset, or a major upset for that matter, is always on the cards.

  2. Oh ye of little faith Tariq! And do you people even take 15 seconds to research this shit? Leo didn’t get nominated for the SAG because the film wasn’t screened to everyone in time, therefore no nomination. Anything can happen on Oscar night so it’ll all unfold on March 2. I can’t wait to see who wins Best Actor.

  3. Ugh! Will everybody STOP with the “Oh Matthew was in The Wolf of Wall Street for 9 minutes so the Oscar is his!” Stop with that! Leo was in The Wolf of Wall Street for 3 hours and gave a knockout performance completely out of his genre with the greatest director alive. Martin himself recently said “what else does [Leo] have to do to win”. I agree. What else does Leo have to do? And another thing. It’s always “Five Reasons Why Leo Won’t Win” how about “Five Reasons Why Matthew Won’t Win”? “Five Reasons Why Chiwetel Won’t Win”? Why do we always have to pick on Leo every single year, huh? Because he’s the most deserving!

  4. My problem is the Academy themselves.
    Unfortunately I can only word this as I know it rather than quote it but an Academy member recently pointed out that Leo’s lack of campaigning for The Departed cost him his most deserving nomination and likely win – why on earth should someone have to campaign to be nominated?
    If the performance is the best then surely it is worthy of the award?
    I don’t believe Leo will win this year although I do believe he deserves it. Not because of his star status and the infamous chitter chatter about him not yet being a winner but because the Academy is all politics and ass kissing.
    DiCaprio can campaign all he wants but unless he blows someone in the process I believe he will struggle to win.

  5. I think last night’s BAFTAs squashed the Leo surge, if a surge was happening at all. It was his first chance to compete in a race sans McConaughey , and he lost to Chiwetel Ejiofor. DiCaprio has only his Globe win as an indication of support. SAG is almost a non-factor in the race for me because little to no voters saw Wolf in time for voting. I am personally happy the race is so tight, because there are an abundance of stellar performances this year. But it seems to be shaping up as McConaughey vs Ejiofor after last night.

  6. I don’t think Russell Crowe lost Best Actor for a Beautiful Mind because of his bad behavior. I think it was mostly because that year, the Academy decided to reward African-American performers in order to clean their image as not inclusive: Honorary award for Poitier, Actor for Washington and Actress for Berry. Looking back now… are they deserving? I don’t know, but Crowe was only a casualty of that mindset, not a punished actor for his behavior

  7. I still don’t think Matthew deserves it, compared to Ejiofor. Yes I do think that this a race between Matthew vs. Ejiofor. Leo is the dark horse. I don’t understand this talk about Bruce Dern at all…it’s not going to happen people. Besides, the actor who played a real-life person is going to win. It just continues the tradition in the lead categories.

    I don’t buy the Matthew love. Maybe because he played a homophobe? I don’t know. Maybe the Academy won’t buy it. I do think Ejiofor is going to win though.

  8. I pretty much say ditto with the commenter Marley and reiterate what she or he said. Why does everyone always have to pick on Leo come awards season? Every year it’s another “will he get the Oscar” scenario. Let the guy have his glory instead of shooting him down Tariq! There’s a difference between who “deserves” the Oscar and who will actually win. The difference is that Leonardo deserves it. Will he win? Well that’s the mystery that will be solved in 2 weeks time. My fingers will always be crossed for Leonardo. What else can he possibly do to please these awards show pundits?

  9. Leo is deserving YES! But it’s not his year. Agree with ‘why do have Actors even have to campaign, if their performance is singled out as one of the best of the year regardless of their campaigning for it? (Sean Penn anyone? and he has two Oscars now). Leo will win someday but not for this polarizing picture. He was amazing but will have to be glad to be sitting in his seat when the other four nominees are mentioned along with him. It’s McConaughey’s year. It has Oscar written all over it (physical transformation, acting kudos (regardless of subject matter, death, drama and sentimentality). He’s well liked again and he’s been very sincere and has campaigned very agressively for this nomination. I won’t be upset if he loses though to Ejiofor though (probably the trickiest perf. of the year). This could be the year of an upset a la Adrien Brody when he was up against so many great Actors that year. This is what makes the Oscar telecast so much fun to watch. IMHO…

  10. This Oscar season is giving me a big headache. I don’t understand the reasoning here either. You fault Leonardo on the “overdue” factor. You praise Matthew for a career turnaround from doing shitty romantic comedies (I use the word comedy loosely because none of them were funny). You say it adds to his appeal? Leonardo acted outside of the box as well. What about him? Obviously box office success isn’t really a factor in who wins but Leonardo gave Martin Scorsese his biggest box office success to date, shouldn’t that have some “appeal”? He’s the only actor this year with 2 nominations. Normally they’d shut him out completely. I think that’s somewhat of a sign. Chiwetel’s performance is obvious Oscar bait and they shouldn’t be guilt tripped into giving him the award just because it’s a slave movie. So does that mean Michael Fassbender will win as well? He won’t even show up to the show because he’s working. Michael Douglas won back in ’88 for a role that in turn inspired Jordan Belfort to be a big Wall Street douche. Could history repeat itself? I hope it does! I want Leonardo to win based on powerful performance alone. *And another thing, back in ’94 both Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes lost but Schindler’s List still won Best Picture. Chiewetel and Michael can still very well lose.*

  11. The elephant in the room is that the Academy loathes Leo. They nominated nearly everyone and everything associated with Titanic except for him. They didn’t nominate him for his best performance at the time in Revolutionary Road. There’s something about him they just don’t like; personally, I think it’s because it’s just so transparent that’s he’s trying much too hard to win an Oscar. Every role he takes has the goal of winning him an Oscar. It comes off as pretentious. His best strategy at this point is to act like he really doesn’t care about winning one. Do a romantic comedy. Do a film without Scorsese at his side; they’re perpetually connected at the hip and it’s unseemly.

  12. Um, Leo has been supported my many fans just as much as MM.
    He is campaigning majorly by going to premieres such as Santa Barbara
    There have been many times where SAG winners did not win the Oscar, .
    i.e. Daniel Day Lewis for Gangs of New York, Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth, Russell Crowe for A Beautiful Mind, Kate Hudson for Almost Famous, Sissy Spacek for In the Bedroom
    The Academy can play an overdue factor, you just dont know if they are thinking that. Kate Winslet won after six nominations, after many thought she was overdue and Alan Arkin won for Little Miss Sunshine when he was considered a dark horse. Calling DiCaprio “Leo” doesnt suggest that Tom thinks of him as a boy. When peopld call Jennifer Lawrence “Jen” or “JLaw” do they think of her as a little girl despite her Oscar nominations and being an extremely popular star? Big stars have won Oscars, George Clooney won for Syriana, Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side, MM is a current frontrunner and he is a movie star if you know so much about him. Jennifer Lawrence won for SLP. Jonah Hill has been nominated for Two Oscars as well as Bradley Cooper. Leo is just as much as a hance for the win than MM.

  13. Um, Leo has been supported my many fans just as much as MM.
    He is campaigning majorly by going to premieres such as Santa Barbara
    There have been many times where SAG winners did not win the Oscar, .
    i.e. Daniel Day Lewis for Gangs of New York, Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth, Russell Crowe for A Beautiful Mind, Kate Hudson for Almost Famous, Sissy Spacek for In the Bedroom
    The Academy can play an overdue factor, you just dont know if they are thinking that. Kate Winslet won after six nominations, after many thought she was overdue and Alan Arkin won for Little Miss Sunshine when he was considered a dark horse. Calling DiCaprio “Leo” doesnt suggest that Tom thinks of him as a boy. When peopld call Jennifer Lawrence “Jen” or “JLaw” do they think of her as a little girl despite her Oscar nominations and being an extremely popular star? Big stars have won Oscars, George Clooney won for Syriana, Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side, MM is a current frontrunner and he is a movie star if you know so much about him. Jennifer Lawrence won for SLP. Jonah Hill has been nominated for Two Oscars as well as Bradley Cooper. Leo is just as much as a hance for the win than MM.

  14. DiCaprio will eventually win an Oscar (or two), look how long it took Al Pacino. Thus far in his career he has not delivered that one performance that towers over the other nominees. I cannot argue with the winners he lost to thus far (or with a McConaughey or Ejiofor victory this year). Be patient, it’s coming …

  15. My problem with McConaughey winning is that even though he was good, he wasn’t great and Dallas Buyers’ Club was just average and okay and not that good. I honestly feel both he and Leto truly do not deserve the awards they are going to get. It should go to either Ejiofor or DiCaprio and really should go to Michael Fassbender.

  16. Back in the year 1936 at the 8th Academy Awards THREE–I repeat THREE–actors from the same film where all nominated for Best Actor (Mutiny on the Bounty). They were Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, and Franchot Tone. Now that’s SIXTY PERCENT of the whole nomination between them and none of them won! Mutiny won Best Picture though. So if that’s possible that these men can still lose when they have all that probability on them, I’m pretty sure Matthew McConauhoweveryouspellit is still capable of losing with his 1/3 probability. I’m rootin for Leonardo DiCaprio all the way. I rest my case right here.

  17. Leo’s time is now. Remember when viola davis and george clooney were heavy favorites to win since they won every award out there? Ballots are happening now.

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