“Son of Saul” star Geza Rohrig was the runner-up for Best Actor at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards when results were announced on Sunday afternoon. The film was also named Best Foreign-Language Film by the LA journos. Will Rohrig go on to an Oscar nomination? Judging from history, it’s difficult to get recognition for acting in a foreign tongue, but not impossible.
The most recent example was just last year: Marion Cotillard earned a Best Actress bid for the French-language Belgian drama “Two Days, One Night,” and before that she won Best Actress in 2007 for another French turn as singer Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose.” Cotillard was the last actor to win for an entirely foreign-language film, but others – Javier Bardem (“Biutiful”) and Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour“) – have been nominated since.
The only foreign-language performance to win Rohrig’s category, Best Actor, was Roberto Benigni (“Life is Beautiful”) in 1998. Perhaps it’s good news for Rohrig’s chances that, like Benigni, he plays a Jewish man trying to preserve his humanity while imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust. Films about that horrific period of history tend to resonate with the academy no matter what the language (see also: “Schindler’s List,” “The Reader”).
Besides Benigni and Cotillard, five other actors have won for significantly or entirely foreign-language roles: Sophia Loren (Best Actress in “Two Women,” 1961), Robert De Niro (Best Supporting Actor in “The Godfather, Part II,” 1974), Benicio Del Toro (Best Supporting Actor in “Traffic,” 2000), Penelope Cruz (Best Supporting Actress in “Vicki Cristina Barcelona,” 2008) and Christoph Waltz (Best Supporting Actor in “Inglourious Basterds,” 2009), but only Loren, Benigni and Cotillard’s films were entirely in a foreign language like Rohrig’s.
Still, finishing as a runner-up at LAFCA’s awards (“Steve Jobs” star Michael Fassbender edged him out for the win) shows significant strength for the breakthrough star, for whom “Son of Saul” is his first feature film. Do you think he’ll be nominated for Best Actor?
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“Son of Saul” photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics