Best Actor rivalry: Does Denzel Washington’s SAG victory make him Oscar frontrunner over Casey Affleck?

After Denzel Washington’s recent win at the SAG Awards for “Fences,” Gold Derby readers were sent into a frenzy trying to decide if he was now the undisputed frontrunner to take home the Oscar. Less than two weeks after his victory, Washington has now overtaken longtime frontrunner Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”) as the leader according to our Oscar experts from major media outlets. Washington currently stands at 1/1 odds, while Affleck has dropped to second place at 6/5 odds. But let’s all just calm down and look closely at Oscar history before we make any rash decisions. Is Washington truly the most likely to win on February 26? I crunched the numbers to find out.

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Let’s start with the most staggering statistic in Washington’s favor. Over the past 20 years, 16 SAG winners (80%) have gone on to win the golden statue. As Washington’s sole win of this award season, it’s the most powerful one to have under his belt. But another four times (20%), actors have lost at SAG only to go on and take the top industry prize. We also have to keep in mind that there was a very public outcry in the media that Washington had never won a SAG Award before “Fences.” Could this have influenced any votes?

The next most accurate precursor in recent history has been the Critics’ Choice Award, with 14 out of 20 (70%) winners going on to claim the Oscar. This is a bump in the direction of longtime frontrunner, Affleck. Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”), Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”) and Washington all secured nominations here, giving them a 13% chance to reign victorious on Oscar Sunday.

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When it comes to the Golden Globes, there is a different standard for actors nominated for Best Actor in a Drama versus Comedy/Musical. Looking at the statistics of recent years, I discovered that 11 of the last 20 of Best Actor Drama champs (55%) go on to win the Oscar, while five of the last 20 Oscar champs (25%) were nominated for Best Actor Drama at the Globes, but failed to win. What’s interesting is that just being nominated in the drama category at the Globes gives you a better shot at winning an Oscar than winning the comedy/musical category. Just three comedy champs (15%) have reaped the ultimate reward from the apparently stone-cold and humorless Academy. All of these numbers are once again a score for Affleck, who won Best Actor Drama, and a devastating blow to Gosling, who took home the Best Comedy/Musical prize.

Finally, we have BAFTA. When it comes to the British Academy, they have correctly predicted the Best Actor Oscar 12 of the last 20 years (60%), while five non-winning BAFTA nominees (25%) have taken the Oscar, and just three actors (15%) who were snubbed by BAFTA altogether. This is bad news for one person: Washington, who was the only Oscar nominee this year snubbed by the Brits.

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When you multiply all these factors together, what the statistics say is that readers at Gold Derby may have been too quick to jump off the Affleck train. Even without a win at the BAFTA Awards, which take place this Sunday, Affleck has a solid lead, statistically, over Washington. If he goes on to actually win at BAFTA, his chances of winning increase even further. Garfield (the only British nominee), who some feel could pull off an upset at BAFTA, still would not have the momentum to overtake either Affleck or Washington at the Oscars. With a BAFTA win unable to change the standings, the statistical frontrunner is clear. Here are the current rankings based on all of these factors:

1. Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea” — Critics’ Choice win, Golden Globe Drama win, BAFTA nomination, SAG nomination

2. Denzel Washington, “Fences” — SAG win, Golden Globe Drama nomination, Critics’ Choice nomination

3. Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge” — Golden Globe Drama nomination, BAFTA nomination, SAG nomination, Critics’ Choice nomination

4. Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic” — Golden Globe Drama nomination, BAFTA nomination, SAG nomination, Critics’ Choice nomination

5. Ryan Gosling, “La La Land” — BAFTA nomination, SAG nomination, Golden Globe Comedy/Musical win, Critics’ Choice nomination

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The historical data shows that many people may be mistaken by jumping on the Washington bandwagon too quickly. Beyond that, Gosling, who is currently ranked third in our predictions center, has virtually no shot at winning the Oscar.

Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films are faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before winners are announced on February 26 at 5:00 pm PT/8:00 pm ET. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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