Art imitates life as Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton (‘Hatfields & McCoys’) in Emmys feud

The co-leads of History’s wildly popular miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys” find themselves in a familiar position at the Emmys as Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton — who portrayed real-life feuding patriarchs William “Devil Anse” Hatfield and Randall McCoy — duke it out in the race for Movie/Miniseries Actor. But something tells us there will be less bloodshed this time around.


According to Gold Derby’s exclusive polling, Costner (11/2 odds) has a slight edge over Paxton (25/1), however both men come in near the bottom of the pack. Leading the race is Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia“) with 12/5 odds, followed by Clive Owen (“Hemingway and Gellhorn“) with 4/1 odds and then Woody Harrelson (“Game Change“) with 9/2 odds. Resting comfortably between Costner and Paxton in fifth place is this year’s Golden Globe champ Idris Elba (“Luther“) with 8/1 odds.

Could the Gold Derby community be under-evaluating the performances of Costner and Paxton? One just has to look at last year’s Emmy race to see that the answer is yes.

In 2011, two actors from “The Kennedys” contended in this race: Greg Kinnear and Barry Pepper. While Kinnear was considered a frontrunner, Pepper actually received the lowest odds and was deemed the least likely to win. Thus, Emmywatchers were understandably stunned when Pepper’s name was called.

How did this happen? At other awards shows, when two performers from the same entry contend against each other there’s the possibility of splitting the vote. At the Emmys, academy judges watch an episode of each contender’s performance, meaning that if two or more nominees are from the same program they get critiqued not just on their own episode, but also on those submitted by their co-stars. This could be how Pepper wound up winning for “The Kennedys,” and greatly improves the chances of both Costner and Paxton for “Hatfields & McCoys.”

Emmy voters absolutely love rewarding movie stars in this race, so that might give the edge to Academy Award-winning director/producer Costner (“Dances with Wolves”). In recent years, Al Pacino (“You Don’t Know Jack” and “Angels in America”), Paul Giamatti (“John Adams”), Robert Duvall (“Broken Trail”) and Geoffrey Rush (“The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”) all claimed victory here.

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If voters want to continue this movie star trend, then Costner should take the easy win. If they want to recognize a more understated performance like they did last year with Pepper, then look for Paxton to upset. Or maybe Gold Derby’s predictions are correct after all and Cumberbatch will earn his first Emmy. Find out when the winners are announced Sept. 23 on ABC.

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