This year’s Oscar derby could be hijacked by Clint Eastwood‘s “American Sniper,” which is getting a limited release on Christmas Day in advance of going wide on Jan. 16 (the day after nominations are announced). Bradley Cooper, who also produces, packed on 40 pounds to play real-life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle who was credited with more than 200 kills in four tours of duty in Iraq. Kyle, who chronicled his experiences in a best-selling memoir in 2012, was killed by a veteran struggling with PTSD in Feb. 2013.
A decade ago, Eastwood pulled off an Oscars upset with another last-minute entry: “Million Dollar Baby.” That film won four award — Best Picture, Director, Actress (Hilary Swank) and Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman) — while the original frontrunner, Martin Scorsese‘s “The Aviator,” stumbled, winning Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett) plus four creative awards (Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design and Editing).
Eastwood hasn’t been back in the race since then, but this film showcases Cooper who has reaped Oscar bids for the past two years running: Best Actor in “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) and Best Supporting Actor in “American Hustle” (2013). And Warner Bros. was so confident in the film, which only began shooting in March, that they slid it into the plum Christmas slot.
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