Will Mahershala Ali (‘Moonlight’) or Dev Patel (‘Lion’) make Oscar history with Best Supporting Actor victory?

The Oscar race for Best Supporting Actor at the 89th Academy Awards has suddenly become more interesting — and potentially historic. SAG and Critics’ Choice winner Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) remains the frontrunner (2/9 odds) to win according to Gold Derby’s experts. But a BAFTA triumph by Dev Patel (“Lion”) has suddenly made the British-born Indian actor a serious contender with 16/1 odds. Regardless of who ends up taking home the Oscar, a win by either actor would make history in this category. Click through our photo gallery above of every Best Supporting Actor winner in Oscar history.

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A victory for Patel would make him the first actor of Indian descent to win an acting Oscar. In “Lion,” Patel plays Saroo, an Indian boy who had been adopted as a child by an Australian couple and decides to search for his biological family. Patel has a few advantages as noted by Gold Derby editor Tom O’Neil: “BAFTA can often be a strong Oscar indicator since the two voting groups share hundreds of the same members. Patel has other strong plusses as an Oscar candidate now. Veteran Oscar-grabber Harvey Weinstein is steering his campaign and Patel holds an Oscar I.O.U. after his break-out film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ won Best Picture of 2008, but he wasn’t even nominated.”

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But Ali remains a strong frontrunner to win, particularly after acing his “Oscar audition” with a powerful speech at the SAG Awards. Ali spoke emotionally about the theme of persecution in the film, as well his conversion to Islam and the conflicts within his own family regarding that conversion. A win for Ali would make him only the fifth black actor to win in this category, and also the first Muslim to win an acting Oscar.

Video produced by David Janove

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13 thoughts on “Will Mahershala Ali (‘Moonlight’) or Dev Patel (‘Lion’) make Oscar history with Best Supporting Actor victory?

  1. “A victory for Patel would make him the first actor of Indian descent to win an acting Oscar.”

    Uhh… no, it definitely wouldn’t. Patel is the third actor of Indian descent to be nominated, after Merle Oberon and Ben Kingsley, and Ben Kingsley obviously won way back in 1982 for Gandhi. Patel would be the first to win in his category, but he’d be the second to win an acting Oscar overall.

      1. I suppose he would be the first Indian actor to win for Best Supporting… perhaps that’s what they meant but forgot to add it in?

        1. I would give him that benefit of the doubt if the sentence just read, “A victory for Patel would make him the first actor of Indian descent to win an Oscar.” Then I might think he simply forgot to put “for Supporting Actor” on the end. But the sentence specifically says, “A victory for Patel would make him the first actor of Indian descent to win an ACTING Oscar.” That means an Oscar in any of the four acting fields, which is categorically incorrect.

    1. It’s kind of semantics. I definitely see what you’re saying about Ben and Merle, but they were half European in heritage. Both Dev Patel’s parents are of Indian heritage. Regardless, he is brown and I think it’s fantastic that the representation of Indian people are expanding in Hollywood. Ben Kingsley can play several different ethnicities because he is so ambiguous… and there is nothing wrong with that, but dev’s appearance definitely limits him to rolls in Hollywood because it’s so exclusive when it comes to representing Asian people.

    2. This is pretty much semantics, but I definitely see where you are coming from. Ben and Merle have European heritage in them, while Dev Patel’s heritage is purely Indian. Technically, though, they are all of Indian “decent.” However, Dev Patel is brown, and it’s fantastic that he is moving forward in Hollywood so Indian people can have representation (I mean, there are billions of them). Ben Kingsley is amazing, but he can play roles of various types of ethnicities, and there is nothing wrong with that, however, Dev Patel’s skin color definitely limits the roles that he can take on in Hollywood. I’m really not trying to make this a “whitewashing” thing, however, if you are disagreeing with what I’m saying in this post, it’s simply because you don’t understand how much misrepresentation there is with Asian people in Hollywood. Heck, Burberry mistook Riz Ahmed for Dev Patel in a tweet a few days ago… If there were more people representing Indian heritage, that mistake would not happen as often, even though Western culture shrugs it off as “all Asian people look a like.” No we don’t, it’s just no body is used to seeing us in the lime light. So you can argue that he isn’t the first person with Indian decent to be nominated, but he is the first Indian who represents Indian people to be nominated. It probably seems silly to you, but for us it’s kind of important and something to celebrate about 🙂

  2. Dev Patel was pretty good in ‘Lion’ and him winning BAFTA was NOT a surprise considering he’s British and BAFTA awarding their own kind but I honestly don’t think he will win the Oscars. To me, it’s still Ali’s award! If Patel does win, then I won’t be mad. I was happy for his BAFTA win!

  3. How could Ali win? He is like only ten minutes onscreen and gives exactly the same performance he gives in House of Cards and Luke Cage!

    1. It’s called Best Supporting Actor/Actress for a reason. You’re not suppose to be in the film for a very long time. Anne Hathaway and Judi Denth have won for very little screen time. And Viola Davis could have won for “Doubt”. She was there only for 12 mins.

      1. Yes but all of them gave strong and scene steal performances, Ali performance is completely forgettable!

  4. Totally agree! If they wanted to nominate a male actor, they should’ve nominated the teenage one; he was the best of the bunch. I hope the Academy doesn’t get caught up in awarding 3 African Americans simply to disassociate itself with the stigma of “Oscar So White”. Viola Davis–yes, deserving and Denzel and the actress from “Moonlight,” but not Ali. Dev Patel has been consistently producing great work and is so of due. Ali hasn’t paid his dues yet and just because he’s black and they want to award the movie here….maybe it’ll win one of the Best Screenplays and thus, Patel can be awarded here.

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