SAG Awards mystery: Are we underestimating Bill Murray for ‘A Very Murray Christmas’?

Bill Murray (“A Very Murray Christmas”) is the kind of actor that the Screen Actors Guild loves to award on the television side. He is a household name, among the oldest of the men nominated for Best Movie/Mini Actor this year and he has enjoyed a long film career that is still thriving today, demonstrated by him receiving his fifth Golden Globe nomination for film work last year (“St. Vincent”), thirty years after his first (“Ghost Busters”). And he won both an Emmy and a Critics’ Choice Award just last year (“Olive Kitteridge”). Yet with only 22/1 odds (as of this writing), he ranks third in our predictions.

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Mark Rylance (“Wolf Hall”) is favored to win with leading odds of 8/11. He has been a nomination mainstay for the role, but consistently comes up short for the win, regardless of the competition, having lost the Emmy to Richard Jenkins (“Olive Kitteridge”), the Golden Globe to Oscar Isaac (“Show Me a Hero”) and Critics’ Choice to Idris Elba (“Luther”). Airing in the spring may have helped “Wolf Hall” for Emmy voting, as it scored nine nominations, but it has been largely ignored by the guilds months later, having only been nominated for art direction and casting outside of the recognition for Rylance here.

By contrast, “A Very Murray Christmas” has fared surprisingly well with the industry guilds. Perhaps visibility is helping as this Netflix Original constantly pops up as suggested viewing on the widely-used streaming service. It was the only nominee in the Movie/Mini category at the Producers Guild Awards that wasn’t an anthology series contending against “American Crime”, “American Horror Story”, “Fargo” (winner) and “True Detective.”  It was nominated over high-profile traditional fare from HBO in “Bessie” and “Show Me a Hero.” “A Very Murray Christmas” is also nominated for a Directors Guild Award and Murray is the first ever SAG Movie/Mini Actor contender nominated for playing himself. 

Sure, critics prefer “Wolf Hall” to “A Very Murray Christmas” (by a score of 86 versus 68 on Metacritic), but consider the case of Elisabeth Moss ( who was favored to win SAG Best Movie/Mini Actress two years ago for “Top of the Lake.” A previous SAG television nominee for “Mad Men,” Moss also reaped Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice bids for this miniseries. At SAG, she was up against four past Oscar nominees and/or winners, making her the “apple in the bag of oranges” that often prevails with help from vote-splitting. But she lost to Helen Mirren (“Phil Spector”) for a performance in a tepidly-received program (60 on Metactitic versus 87 for “Top of the Lake”) that had not even been nominated by Critics’ Choice. What Mirren had going for her was being the oldest nominee and the one with the most active prestige film career, having been nominated by SAG yet again just the year prior (“Hitchcock”).

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And remember this very race four years ago when Paul Giamatti (“Too Big to Fail”) defeated three older Oscar nominees, as well as the performance that had bested him at the Emmys in the supporting category: Guy Pearce (“Mildred Pierce”). Timing was the one advantage that Giamatti had over his esteemed competitors. He was the only one that had been individually nominated for a major Hollywood award in the decade prior, having actually won SAG Awards for both film (“Cinderella Man”) and television (“John Adams”).

Idris Elba is second with odds of 9/5; this marks his first SAG nomination after four seasons. In fourth is Ben Kingsley (“Tut”) at 50/1, which might be a bit low considering that he is the most esteemed nominee. He is the oldest of the group, the only one with multiple Oscar nominations and also the only one to have won an Oscar (“Gandhi”, 1982). However, it has been 12 years since he was last nominated for a major film award (“House of Sand and Fog”) and nine since he last contended for a major TV award (“Mrs. Harris”). Ray Liotta (“Texas Rising”) rounds out the category with 40/1 odds for a supporting performance that was passed over by the Emmys. He is the only nominee here who has never been nominated on the film side of SAG.

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What do you think will win at the SAG Awards? Make your predictions beginning with Best TV Movie/Mini Actor to the right or at the bottom of this post.

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Photo credit: “A Very Murray Christmas” (Netflix)

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