Where do the 10 Experts who have made predictions in the top-six Oscar categories on Gold Derby stand when it comes to what is shaping up to be a hot and heavy lead-actor competition this early in the game? If you are looking for showy trophy-bait drama, you can’t go too wrong with a biopic – and portraits of four diverse real-life individuals are part of the current top five.
After all, the last five winners of the category — Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln”), Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”), Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”) and Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) — all embodied truth-based individuals.
For now, Christian Bale, who packed on pounds and shaved his head to play former Vice President Dick Cheney in “Backseat,’ is at the pinnacle for now, with nine Experts predicting he will be nominated and two – Joyce Eng and Thelma Adams – picking him to win. His knockout performance as real-life pro-boxer Dicky Eklund in 2010’s “The Fighter” resulted in a supporting-actor trophy.
In second place is an oldie and a goodie – an overdue oldie and goodie at that, who just declared he is retiring from acting. In “The Old Man & the Gun,” Robert Redford is real-life bank robber Forrest Tucker, who escaped from San Quentin at age 70. Shades of the Sundance Kid right there. Eight Experts place him as a likely nominee, while two – Matthew Jacobs and Christopher Rosen — also have him as the victor. The star has only had one chance at an acting Oscar — for 1973’s “The Sting,” as a shady con man. A reminder: Never underestimate sentiment as a factor.
In third place is Ryan Gosling, who has yet been unable to snag a statuette despite being up for Best Actor twice before, for 2006’s “Half Nelson” and 2016’s “La La Land,” is taking a giant step towards academy gold as the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, in “First Man.” Five Experts have him rocketing toward a nomination, but three – me, Adnan Virk and Peter Travers – have also named him as the potential winner. My thinking? Gosling’s lack of appreciation so far might be due to his status as a heartthrob aka the Brad Pitt problem. But being a space-race hero could lend him some serious cred.
In fourth place is Bradley Cooper, who has been nominated for three lead Oscars in three consecutive years for his performances in 2012’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” 2013’s “American Hustle” and 2014’s “American Sniper.” His latest is a change of pace, “A Star is Born,” the fifth big-screen variation of a story involving an over-the-hill alcoholic performer — in this case, a country music singer — who discovers a talented young woman (Lady Gaga). Although it isn’t a biopic, Cooper will likely get bonus points for degree of difficulty since he is also making his directing debut. How do the Experts feel about this? Six mark him as nominated but zero pick him as the winner.
As for No. 5, those Experts who value flash, panache and a very memorable mustache are already going “Radio Gaga” over Rami Malek’s interpretation of the late, great British singer and songwriter Freddy Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He has won a lead actor Emmy for his role in TV’s “Mr. Robot,” but he steps up his movie game with this coveted yet challenging role of a iconic glam rocker. Five Experts predict a nomination and three think he just might win – Edward Douglas, Tariq Khan and Gold Derby’s main maven Tom O’Neil.
This week is the start of the fall film festival season, beginning with Venice, when many of the movies in contention will get their premieres. So check back on Gold Derby to get a reality check on Experts’ reaction updates in real time.