“Creed” opened on November 25, 40 years to the day of the first scene in “Rocky.” This seventh film in the franchise could be the one that finally wins Sylvester Stallone, who created the iconic character of Rocky Balboa, an Oscar. Back in 1976, he contended for both Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay for the original film, losing to “Network” star (Peter Finch) and scribe (Paddy Chayefsky) respectively. The consolation prize — his movie won Best Picture over that film as well as “All the President’s Men,” “Bound for Glory” and “Taxi Driver.”
“Creed” reunites “Fruitvale Station” director Ryan Coogler with Michael B. Jordan, who stars as Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky’s first opponent Apollo. The film has scored a staggering 93 at Rotten Tomatoes (which scores on a pass/fail basis) and an impressive 82 on the sliding scale at MetaCritic. And many of the rave reviews made special mention of Stallone.
A.O. Scott (New York Times): “He’s taken up the role, essential to the genre, of the gruff, grizzled trainer. And Sylvester Stallone, while happy to steal a scene every now and then, cedes the limelight to Michael B. Jordan. It is a pleasure to watch Mr. Stallone amble through a movie with nothing much to prove.”
Brian Truitt (USA Today): “Stallone will always be best known as Rocky. And for the first time in decades, he’s amazing in the role, giving heartfelt speeches and adding a pathos not seen since the early films. It’s a reminder that Stallone at his core is much more than the macho action hero Millennial moviegoers grew up watching.”
Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times): “What Rocky, older, slower and thick around the middle, doesn’t do anymore is deal with boxing. Convincingly played by Stallone, who at this point doesn’t act the character so much as simply be him, Rocky wearily tells Adonis: ‘Time takes everybody out. It’s undefeated.'”
Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly): “Jordan and Stallone (looser and more vulnerable than he’s been in 30 years) give the film an undeniable, lump-in-the-throat poignancy. In the end it’s a movie about legacy, and it more than preserves the Rocky franchise’s. It reminds you why it was great in the first place.”
Currently, Stallone is ranked sixth to win Best Supporting Actor by our 21 Oscar experts (journalists who cover this beat for major media including Variety, Yahoo, USA Today, and Huffington Post). Just a week ago, he didn’t even make our top 10. And he could well rise higher if the movie proves to be the hit we expect. Right now, one expert (Sasha Stone, Awards Daily) is predicting him to prevail and another seven expect him to reap a nomination. That support translates into odds of 16-to-1.
Stallone, who saw his first film pull off an upset 39 years ago, would make Oscar history again if he prevails for playing the same part. Currently, Paul Newman holds the record for the longest gap between Oscar bids for the same character. He first played pool shark Eddie Felson in 1961’s “The Hustler,” losing Best Actor to Maximilian Schell (“Judgment at Nuremberg”). A quarter of a century later he won his only Oscar in this same race for reprising the role in “The Color of Money”
Bing Crosby holds the record for the shortest gap between nominations for repeating a role. He won Best Actor in 1944 for creating the character of Father Chuck O’Malley in “Going My Way” but lost that same race the following year for the sequel “The Bells of St. Mary’s” to Ray Milland, star of the Best Picture winner “The Lost Weekend.”
Al Pacino lost two times in three years for playing Michael Corleone. He contended in supporting for “The Godfather” in 1972 (Joel Grey won for “Cabaret”) and then in lead in 1974 when Art Carney (“Harry and Tonto”) pulled off an upset.
Oscar’s biggest also-ran among actors was Peter O’Toole. He lost two of his eight Oscar races for his portrayal of King Henry II, first in “Becket” in 1964 to Rex Harrison (“My Fair Lady”) and then in 1968 for “The Lion in Winter” to Cliff Robertson (“Charly”).
Cate Blanchett reaped two Best Actress bids for playing Queen Elizabeth I, losing for “Elizabeth” in 1998 to Gywneth Paltrow (“Shakespeare in Love”) and in 2007 for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” to Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”).
This time around, Stallone has the advantage of competing in supporting. While veterans do win Best Actor from time to time, it’s more often that that the academy uses Best Supporting Actor as a de facto lifetime achievement award. Stallone is now 69, so the academy could choose now to finally hand him his first acting victory. That would make him the 11th oldest winner in the 80-year history of this award.
The oldest winner ever was Christopher Plummer, who was 82 when he prevailed for “Beginners” in 2011. Other champs who were quite gray when they got Oscar gold include Jack Palance (73 when he won for “City Slickers,” 1991); Alan Arkin (72; “Little Miss Sunshine,” 2006) James Coburn (70; “Affliction,” 1998) and Morgan Freeman (67; “Million Dollar Baby,” 2004).
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Photo Credit: Warner Bros.