Paul Dano just earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as a young Brian Wilson in the music biopic “Love and Mercy.” Is an Oscar nomination soon to follow?
We know the academy loves actors playing real people, and actors playing musicians are especially successful at winning over Oscar voters. Jamie Foxx won Best Actor for his portrayal of Ray Charles in “Ray” and Reese Witherspoon claimed Best Actress for her role as June Carter in “Walk the Line.” Geoffrey Rush (“Shine”) and Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”) also prevailed, both as real-life piano virtuosos.
In addition, Dano has the benefit of playing a character with mental illness. Voters are often impressed by actors who embody the physical and emotional symptoms of a disorder, which can often be difficult to convey on-screen. Dano plays Wilson at a time when the Beach Boys brainchild started showing symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. That’s the same illness that Rush portrayed as David Helfgott in “Shine.” Playing characters with mental illnesses also resulted in bids for Tom Wilkinson (“Michael Clayton”), Michael Shannon (“Revolutionary Road”) and Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”).
Even without those two factors working in his favor, Dano could be considered overdue for his first Oscar nomination. “Love and Mercy” is hardly his first standout performance. At just 17, he won a Spirit Award for his film debut in “L.I.E.” (2001). Since then he’s appeared in multiple films on the academy’s radar: most notably as the sullen son in the road-trip comedy “Little Miss Sunshine,” as a fanatical preacher in “There Will Be Blood” and as a racist carpenter in “12 Years a Slave.”
All three of those films were Best Picture nominees (and “12 Years” won). Dano himself took home a SAG Award as part of the “Little Miss Sunshine” ensemble and contended in that category again with the cast of “12 Years.” He reaped a BAFTA bid for his “There Will Be Blood” performance. So even though he’s only 31, he’s already got a lengthy, Oscar-caliber resume. Now he’s got a Spirit nomination for “Love and Mercy,” in addition to a recent Gotham Award bid, which could be the start of a run towards an Oscar of his own.
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