Oscars cliffhanger: Will Eddie Redmayne follow Daniel Day-Lewis path to victory?

You can’t miss the parallels between Eddie Redmayne‘s performance in “The Theory of Everything” and Daniel Day-Lewis‘s Oscar-winning turn in “My Left Foot” in 1989. It’s been in the back of my mind for a while, but seems especially relevant after Redmayne’s surprise win at the SAG Awards.

Redmayne and Day-Lewis are both British actors (the Oscars love those). And like Redmayne, Day-Lewis played a real person (Oscars love those too) and underwent a drastic physical transformation to portray a physical disability (Oscars jackpot). While Redmayne plays ALS-afflicted scientist Stephen Hawking, who physically deteriorates until he is confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak, Day-Lewis portrayed Christy Brown, an artist with cerebral palsy who could only control his left foot.

Oscars battle for Best Actor: Michael Keaton vs. Eddie Redmayne

Sure, Redmayne is a youthful pretty boy in an Oscar category that favors seasoned veterans, but at age 33, Redmayne is actually a year older than Day-Lewis was when he won, and Day-Lewis certainly had heartthrob appeal in his early years (remember “Last of the Mohicans”?), and the academy didn’t slap that stud. Who knows, this time 23 years from now, we may be anticipating Redmayne’s third Oscar win for playing a US president – James K. Polk, maybe?

I was skeptical about Redmayne at first given his relative youth and limited industry stature – he’s got an impressive list of credits, but not many high-profile leading-man roles – but then I saw “Theory of Everything” and realized his performance is awards catnip. I had predicted him to win the Oscar until the night of the Golden Globes, when I switched to Michael Keaton (“Birdman“).

Eddie Redmayne (‘Theory of Everything’): Oscar buzz is ‘extraordinary privilege’ (Video)

Keaton had a great Globes speech, yes, but that wasn’t what changed my mind, per se. I don’t put too much stock in “Oscar auditions,” but his triumphant off-screen narrative became crystallized that night: he was a comeback kid whose on-screen struggle as an actor striving for relevance resembles his own career, whether Keaton admits it or not – as he told Entertainment Weekly, “In terms of the parallels, I’ve never related less to a character.”

Redmayne’s story – up-and-coming actor gives a good performance – isn’t quite as compelling; despite the fact that his role ticks all the Oscar boxes, Redmayne’s off-screen narrative doesn’t have the same dramatic heft, and like it or not, that often plays a role in who wins Oscar. Just consider Julianne Moore this year; her performance in “Still Alice,” good as it is, is only a fraction of the reason she’s on track to win Best Actress.

But then the SAG upset happened, and it turned me back around again. Maybe I was right the first time, and Redmayne’s performance really is too perfectly tailored for Oscars to deny. And plenty of up-and-comers have won before.

Redmayne is young, but seven men won Best Actor when they were even younger: Day-Lewis, Marlon Brando (“On the Waterfront”), Maximillian Schell (“Judgement at Nuremberg”), James Stewart (“The Philadelphia Story”), Richard Dreyfus (“The Goodbye Girl”), Nicolas Cage (“Leaving Las Vegas”), and the current record-holder Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”), who was the only man to win Best Actor before turning 30. That’s pretty good company in which to be.

Of course, it also sets the bar pretty high. Does Redmayne have what it takes to be the next Day-Lewis, not just at the Oscars but in his career? Academy voters can’t predict the future, which may be one reason they prefer to reward veterans over whippersnappers, but as long as he plays his cards right and pays his taxes, he should be able to avoid the Razzie-studded ignominy of a certain Left Behind Ghost Rider.

14 thoughts on “Oscars cliffhanger: Will Eddie Redmayne follow Daniel Day-Lewis path to victory?

  1. Eddie Redmayne, a youthful pretty boy? You guys are hilarious. Only in the idiocy that passes for the entertainment business would anyone consider Eddie Redmayne a youthful pretty boy.

    One of the dumbest things I think anyone has ever said.

  2. You asked if Eddie Redmayne will be another Daniel Day-Lewis(who won for My Left Foot) and the answer is:NO,no one(and I mean no one) be another Daniel Day-Lewis because their is one Daniel Day-Lewis.So Redmayne should win for his performance and not compare it to someone else.It’s like comparing Michael Keaton to Jack Lemmon or Julianne Moore to Meryl Streep,everyone should be their own person and give their own performance.You guys should know what I’m talking about,because I don’t.One more thing,even don’t I shouldn’t have to keep saying this.Ease up on the Redmayne ass-kissing.

  3. I’m comparing him to Day Lewis as well…but in 2003 (I think 😊). Nicholson won the comedy globe for About Schmidt and Day Lewis took drama for Gangs of NY. Day Lewis took the SAG, seemingly deciding the showdown, but I just never felt good buzz/support behind that movie/performance. On Oscar night, the Pianist’s sleeper campaign catapulted Adrien Brody to victory, certainly benefiting from a vote split. I could see Cumberbatch or Cooper pulling off the same sort of win for a well-liked film that’s unlikely to take any other major awards.

  4. So everybody’s now talking about Redmayne all the time because he won SAG? Or is it because he’s a pretty boy who might get in more audience eyeballs come Oscar night?

    Yes, Redmayne’s performance maybe awards catnip but was it really the best performance of the year? Why is no one giving even an iota of a chance to Benedict Cumberbatch? In order to win an Oscar, if all one has to do is portray a physically-disabled, real-life person complete with physical transformation, then why even bother nominating the other people? Just give it to the one person who has undergone the greatest amount of physical transformation. Heck, why even hold a ceremony for it?

    I know Redmayne’s not the first person to portray a character of this nature. But I do wonder if actors are (in a way) desperate to win an Oscar when they decide to take up such roles (which basically scream out “OSCAR!” in the loudest possible manner).

  5. If Eddie wins, he will be the 8th youngest person to win. If you think that’s a handicap, then think about this stat: Keaton would be the 2nd oldest actor to win. Oldest since Henry Fonda in “On Golden Pond”. I think has it worse.

  6. Last of the Mohicans actually came out 3 years after Day-Lewis won. I don’t think he was known much as a good looking guy in his early film career. I think he was regarded more as a chameleon and went kind of unrecognizably from the uptight guy In a Room with a View to the gay man in My Beautiful Laundrette to the role in My Left Foot. I like Redmayne but I don’t really thing the comparison to Day-Lewis is accurate. (accept for the role he is currently playing) Plus Day-Lewis came to films after being regarded as the next wonder kid of the British stage. I guess I’m saying I think he had a little stronger background than Redmayne.

  7. Not quite sure that Day-Lewis was ever regarded as the next wonder kid of the British stage. He has done relatively little stage work and hasn’t been on stage since 1986. Eddie Redmayne has had a far more succesful career on stage, already winning the Oliver Award and the Tony.

  8. Go Michael Keaton! Really hope he wins. I mean, when will he ever get this award opportunity again, with that fully-integrated performance? Redmayne’s performance can be replicated–Cumberbatch even played Hawking in a prior role about a decade ago.

    If Redmayne’s film was stronger and more layered outside of the performances, I might be more on board. Mind you, I won’t be surprised if Redmayne ends up prevailing in the end, but it will be utterly bittersweet to not see Keaton walk up to the podium.

  9. I just watched The Theory of Everything today and I’ve gotta say all facets of it are extremely overrated. Eddie Redmayne’s interpretation of someone with ALS was over the top. First off, for anyone who saw the movie, didn’t it seem odd how a person that has a nerve disease is smiling constantly? I honestly believe that if he wins, it’s because he (along with the whole cast) smiled like morons! Nothing in his performance was subtle, it seemed so forced. I hope Keaton wins, but if he doesn’t I won’t be shocked. Hollywood seems to care about flash more than depth.

  10. No. Day-Lewis and Eddie Redmayne, from what I’ve seen on screen are polar opposites. Day-Lewis focus’ on small minute character details and Redmayne find a specific part of the character he likes and blows it up 100000%. Two completely different kind of actor.

    And Daniel Day-Lewis is the best actor of his generation, he’s up there with Brando and Olivier. By the time he was 33 he already had us all in the palm of his hand. I’m sorry but this ‘British takeover’ or ‘posh takeover’ or whatever you want to call it is going to end very abruptly. Only the best stick around. And I know I’m not in any real position to say this but Eddie Redmayne and Cumberbatch are going to die out very soon because they are mediocre at best. There performances are believable but at the bare minimum.

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