Experts’ Oscar predictions: Leonardo DiCaprio (‘The Revenant’) poised to return to lead in Best Actor race

At the start of awards season, Leonardo DiCaprio was the frontrunner to win Best Actor according to our 23 Oscar experts drawn from major media such as Yahoo, Variety, and USA Today. He was tipped to finally win an Oscar for his performance as a frontiersman out for revenge in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s revisionist Western “The Revenant.” But, as you can see from the above chart, Leo (in red) lost his lead as his rivals’ pictures screened and his remained unseen. (Click on the above image to chart the ups and downs of the top 10 contenders in this race.)

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First to overtake him was Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl“), then Johnny Depp (“Black Mass“) and finally Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs“). But while Fassbender wowed critics with his portayal of Apple’s patron saint, Danny Boyles crackling biopic stalled at the box office when it wide on Oct. 23. That caused some of our pundits to rethink their predictions. 

As you can see from the above comparison of what we were thinking just four days ago versus today, the race is getting much tighter. Fassbender is down to 10 votes while DiCaprio has rallied and now has eight experts in his corner. That support translates into odds of 13-to-5 for Fassbender (a 2013 supporting nominee for “12 Years a Slave”) to win an Oscar with his first Best Actor bid. DiCaprio, who has lost five Oscars races (four for acting, one for producing) now has odds of 7-to-2 to finally prevail. (Click on the image above to explore these trends in-depth by selecting various dates in the two calendars.)

The 10 experts still on Team Fassbender corner are: Edward Douglas (Coming Soon), Tim Gray (Variety), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Jack Mathews (Gold DerbyTom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Kevin Polowy (Yahoo), Christopher Rosen (Entertainment Weekly), Keith Simanton (IMDB), Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood) and Peter Travers (Rolling Stone).

However, Thelma Adams (Gold Derby) and Michael Musto (Out) switched from Fassbender to DiCaprio. And Nicole Sperling (Entertainment Weekly), a newcomer to the pundit panel, cast her first vote for DiCaprio. These three join Michael Hogan (Vanity Fair),  Sasha Stone (AwardsDaily), Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood Elsewhere), Susan Wloszczyna (RogerEbert.com)  and myself in backing his bid. In this still-unscreened film, DiCaprio plays legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass who, after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by the rest of his hunting party, treks 200 miles across the Dakota Territory to exact his revenge. 

Eddie Redmayne, last year’s Best Actor Oscar champ (“The Theory of Everything”), takes on another real-life role as the transgendered Lill Elbe in “The Danish Girl” from Oscar winner Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”). He has the support of Scott Mantz (Access Hollywood) and Brian Truitt (USA Today). That translates into odds of 6-to-1 to be the first back-to-back Best Actor winner since Tom Hanks (“Philadelphia,” 1993; “Forrest Gump,” 1994). 

Depp added the vote of Glenn Whipp (Los Angeles Times) to that of Tariq Khan (Fox News) for transforming into Boston crime boss turned FBI informant Whitey Bulger in Scott Cooper‘s true crime story. This three-time Oscar also-ran now has odds of 8-to-1 to finally prevail. 

 See the individual predictions of all 23 Oscar Experts here

While DiCaprio could soon be back in the lead, he needs to keep an eye on Matt Damon,our fifth place contender, for his portryal of an astronaut marooned on Mars who must make his own way home in Ridley Scott‘s blockbuster sci-fi epic “The Martian.” As you can see by tracing the purple line on the chart at the top of this item, Damon’s prospects have risen over the past few weeks as his film continues to do boffo business.

While Damon, a two-time also-ran at the Oscars for acting, has yet to pick up any first-place votes from our experts, he is now ranked high enough on our ballots to be guaranteed a nomination. He bumped two-time Supporting Actor champ Michael Caine (“Hannah and Her Sisters,” 1986; “The Cider House Rules,” 1999) from the top five. Caine, who plays a retired conductor considering one last performance in Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino‘s intimate film “Youth,” is angling to become the first performer to be nominated in six consecutive decades. 

See odds and rankings by Oscar Experts in 9 top categories

Make your Oscar predictions beginning with Best Actor at the bottom of this post and you could earn a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year’s Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year’s Oscar nominations).

Last year, our Top 24 Users led the way with an accuracy rate of 76.67% when it came to predicting the Oscar nominations. Next up were Gold Derby’s Editors with 74.44%, followed by the Experts with 71.11% and all Users with 68.09%. (Click on any of these groups to see what they got right and wrong last year.)

Which group will be victorious this year? Meet the guy who won our contest to predict the Oscar nominations last year — and learn how he did it and how you can be our next Gold Derby superstar.

As some of our Users turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, it’s important that you give us your predictions. Your picks influence our Users racetrack odds, which also factor into our official combined odds.

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