Like in Best Actress, this year’s Best Actor Oscar champ could shake up the oldest and youngest Best Actor winners lists, between our predicted two favorites Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) and Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”). But unlike the female race, there is a greater chance of the latter not happening.
This has nothing to do with either of Oldman’s or Chalamet’s excellent, worthy performances, or the fact that Oldman seems to be in cruise control after Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice victories. It’s entirely to do with the opportunities afforded men and women in the industry, and the academy’s notorious age bias against young actors like Chalamet, who is trying to become the youngest Best Actor winner ever.
It’s no secret that actresses get their best, or the most, work early in their careers, while actors score greater roles around middle age, aka the usual dry spell for women. That tracks with the academy’s preferences: Oscar likes its leading ladies young and up-and-coming, and its leading men older and accomplished. A whopping 32 women — that’s more than a third of the winners — have won Best Actress in their 20s compared to just one man in Best Actor, and he almost didn’t make the cut: Adrien Brody was three weeks away from turning 30 when he won for “The Pianist” 15 years ago.
The entire youngest Best Actress top 10 features a twentysomething. The top 10 youngest Best Actor winners — their ages calculated at the time of the award — are:
1. Adrien Brody, “The Pianist” (2002): 29 years, 343 days
2. Richard Dreyfuss, “The Goodbye Girl” (1977): 30 years, 156 days
3. Marlon Brando, “On the Waterfront” (1954): 30 years, 361 days
4. Maximilian Schell, “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961): 31 years, 122 days
5. Nicolas Cage, “Leaving Las Vegas” (1995): 32 years, 78 days
6. James Stewart, “The Philadelphia Story” (1940): 32 years, 283 days
7. Daniel Day-Lewis, “My Left Foot” (1989): 32 years, 331 days
8. Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything” (2014): 33 years, 47 days
9. Clark Gable, “It Happened One Night” (1934): 34 years, 26 days
10. Charles Laughton, “The Private Life of Henry VIII” (1932/33): 34 years, 258 days
Chalamet, who has 7/2 odds to win, will be 22 years and 67 days old at the March 4 ceremony, which would make him the youngest Best Actor winner by far. The youngest male acting winner overall is another Tim — Timothy Hutton — who was 20 years and 227 days old when he won in supporting for “Ordinary People” (1980).
As a nominee, Chalamet would be the third youngest in the category, behind Jackie Cooper, who was 9 years and 20 days old when he contended for “Skippy” (1930/31), and Mickey Rooney, who was 19 years and 142 days old when he was up for “Babes in Arms” (1939). Rooney is also the current third youngest nominee at 23 years and 137 days old for “The Human Comedy” (1943). Chalamet would also be the first Best Actor nominee born in the ‘90s — whereas we’ve had a Best Actress nominee born in the 2000s: “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (2012) star Quvenzhane Wallis, who was born in 2003 — and he would obviously be the first of that decade to win. Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook” ) was the first ‘90s-born Best Actress champ and Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”) could join her this year.
Chalamet, who became the youngest actor to bag the New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association double, certainly has the performance — that final shot stays with you — and the glowing reviews to win. And the rapidly changing membership of the academy would definitely help his cause.
If Chalamet does not prevail, the youngest Best Actor winner record could still be broken, though not by much. Currently in fourth with 9/1 odds, Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) will be 29 years and eight days old at the Oscars, which would make him the second person born in the ‘80s to win Best Actor after Redmayne.
This all might be a moot point since Oldman is predicted to sweep through the Screen Actors Guild Awards, BAFTAs and the Oscars, where he leads with 17/10 odds. Oldman, who will be 17 days shy of his 60th birthday at the Oscars, would be the eighth oldest Best Actor winner. Daniel Day-Lewis (“Phantom Thread”), who’s in third with 11/2 odds, would be the sixth oldest winner at 60 years and 309 days.
The current oldest Best Actor top 10 is:
1. Henry Fonda, “On Golden Pond” (1981): 76 years, 317 days
2. John Wayne, “True Grit” (1969): 62 years, 316 days
3. George Arliss, “Disraeli” (1929/30): 62 years, 209 days
4. Paul Newman, “The Color of Money” (1986): 62 years, 63 days
5. Jack Nicholson, “As Good as It Gets” (1997): 60 years, 335 days
6. Peter Finch, “Network” (1976): 60 years, 181 days (posthumous)
7. Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart” (2009): 60 years, 93 days
8. Ronald Colman, “A Double Life” (1947): 57 years, 40 days
9. Rex Harrison, “My Fair Lady” (1964): 57 years, 31 days
10. Art Carney, “Harry and Tonto” (1974): 56 years, 155 days
As for our projected fifth nominee, James Franco (“The Disaster Artist”), who was accused of sexual misconduct last week, is in the final slot with 10/1 odds. He’ll be 39 years and 319 days old at the ceremony, smack dab in the middle of the late 30s/early 40s age range Oscar loves for its men.
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.