Can Idris Elba make ‘Long Walk’ to Oscars by playing Nelson Mandela?

Idris Elba started out this awards season as a strong Best Actor contender for the biopic “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” But he has been eclipsed by the likes of Robert Redford (“All is Lost“), Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave“), Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club“) and Tom Hanks (“Captain Phillips“).

But don’t discount Elba just yet, as he has five factors going for him that could ultimately lead to his first Oscar nomination, if not win.

1. He plays a real life person.
In the past quarter century, 134 of the 500 Oscar-nominated performances have been for portrayals of real people. That amounts to just shy of 27% of all nominees. The Best Actor category has had an even higher percentage with 44 of the 125 contenders (35%) reaping bids for playing real-life fellows. 

2. He ages throughout the movie.
That definitely adds another layer of prestige that could play well to Academy voters. Playing older than onself helped Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose,” 2007), Kate Winslet (“The Reader,” 2008) and Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady,” 2011) win Best Actress. And Russell Crowe (“A Beautiful Mind,” 2001) and Ellen Burstyn (“Requiem for a Dream,” 2000) both earned nominations for aging on screen.

3. He is likely to land a Golden Globe bid.
Two years ago, he won Best Movie/Mini Actor for “Luther” so we know he is on the HFPA radar. A Best Actor nomination here could propel him to the Oscars.  

4. He stars in a film from The Weinstein Company.
Head honcho Harvey Weinstein is the consummate awards campaigner. He has been going all out in his push to promote this new picture, with a screening at the Kennedy Center hosted by former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and Colin Powell, along with Sen. John McCain (R – AZ) and Democratic politico Paul Begala

5. He is playing a man who just died.
As dark as it may sound, this gives the film a new  gravitas that could garner attention from the academy. 

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