Are Oscar pundits underestimating Bradley Cooper again?

Check out our Experts’ current Oscar predictions in the Best Actor race and you’ll see something curious: Bradley Cooper is ranked sixth for “American Sniper” – that’s one notch shy of scoring a nomination. But how serious should we take that forecast considering the “Experts” have a history of underestimating him early on in past races?

For example, consider last year when Cooper was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “American Hustle.” On Nov. 23, 2013, our Experts ranked him in eighth place behind three stars who ended up getting snubbed: Daniel Bruhl (“Rush”), James Gandolfini (“Enough Said”) and John Goodman (“Inside Llewyn Davis”). 

Two years ago, when Cooper was nominated in the lead category for “Silver Linings Playbook,” he was ranked sixth on Nov. 23, 2012. 

Ultimately, our Experts called it right on the eve of Oscar nominations coming out both times, ranking Cooper in fourth place in those categories, but they were wrong early on when forecasting nominees.

See how our 25 Oscar Experts rank contender for Best Actor

Cooper has a lot going for him this year. Oscar voters love it when stars make radical physical transformations for the sake of a role – like Hilary Swank packing on 19 pounds of muscle to come out swinging in “Million Dollar Baby.” For “American Sniper,” Cooper gained 40 pounds of muscle to portray a tough Navy S.E.A.L., plus he grew a beard and added a southern twang. That S.E.A.L. was a real person and a hero of sorts — Chris Kyle – and that’s always a big plus, too, of course. Eight of the past 10 winners of Best Actor portrayed real-life roles.

But Cooper is late coming to the current contest since “American Sniper” just screened for media and industry. Already solid in the lineup were Michael Keaton (“Birdman“), Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything“), Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher“) and Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game“). Last week, when “Selma” debuted at AFI, it was obvious that David Oyelowo just emerged as a serious threat – not just for a nomination, but to win.

Next up: If “Unbroken” fulfills its promise as a Best Picture runner, Jack O’Connell could suddenly be the chap to beat.

See Oscar rankings generated when our Experts’ predictions are combined

Meantime, a few other rivals linger, menacingly, around the category edges: Timothy Spall (“Mr. Turner“), Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler“) and Joaquin Phoenix (“Inherent Vice“).

So … what to think of Cooper? His dynamic, heart-felt performance is certainly worthy of a nomination. Do you think he’ll get it? Make your prediction – click here.


More News from GoldDerby