Christopher Plummer, Steve Carell, or Ben Mendelsohn might soon be joining Oscar’s legendary pantheon for playing real life men. Oscar voters have proven time and again that they love actors who portray historic people. Maybe it’s because they can make easy comparisons. Or maybe it’s because they are often heroic figures. Whatever the reason, it’s been happening since the introduction of supporting categories in the earliest days of the awards ceremony. Tour our photo gallery above of every single man who has won the Best Supporting Actor category at the Academy Awards for playing a true life character.
The very first person to win the illustrious prize for slipping into a real person’s shoes was Joseph Schildkraut, who portrayed the wrongfully imprisoned Captain Alfred Dreyfus in “The Life of Emile Zola” (1937). Since then, actors as diverse as Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies” in 2015), Christian Bale (“The Fighter” in 2010), Jim Broadbent (“Iris” in 2001), and Martin Landau (“Ed Wood” in 1994), have all triumphed for effortlessly becoming a recognizable figure.
Two actors, in fact, have twice won this prize for their performances as real people. The first to do so was Anthony Quinn, who triumphed for playing Mexican revolutionary Eufemio Zapata in “Viva Zapata!” (1952) and famous French artist Paul Gaugin in “Lust for Life” (1956).
The second was Jason Robards, who is also one of the few people to win back-to-back Oscars for acting (and the only person to do so in this category). The first was for his role as newspaperman Ben Bradlee in “All the President’s Men” (1976), while the next was for playing novelist Dashiell Hammett in “Julia” (1977).
This year offers a wide variety of Best Supporting Actor contenders who star in biopics. Plummer could win his second Oscar for taking over the part of billionaire J. Paul Getty from Kevin Spacey in a last minute reshoot for “All the Money in the World.” Carell could likewise sneak in for playing bombastic tennis pro Bobby Riggs in “Battle of the Sexes.”
Emmy-winner Mendelsohn (Best Drama Supporting Actor for “Bloodline” in 2016) could reap his first Oscar nomination for portraying King George VI in “Darkest Hour.” It’s a role, in fact, that brought Colin Firth a Best Actor prize for “The King’s Speech” (2010). And Steven Spielberg‘s newspaper drama “The Post” has several acting contenders playing real life people, most notably Bob Odenkirk as “Washington Post” reporter Ben Bagdikian.
Be sure to check out how our experts rank Oscar contenders in this and the other top races. Use the drop-down menus at the top of each page to see the other categories. Then take a look at the most up-to-date odds before you make make your Oscar nomination predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.