Can Brian Tyree Henry win an Oscar in 12 minutes? He appears in a pivotal segment of Barry Jenkins‘s “If Beale Street Could Talk” as Daniel Carty, an old friend of Fonny Hunt (Stephan James) who recounts a harrowing experience. James will be campaigning for recognition as a lead actor, which opens the door for Henry in the Best Supporting Actor race, and while you might think a shorter performance is at a disadvantage at the Oscars, tell that to Beatrice Straight and Judi Dench.
Straight made history by winning Best Supporting Actress for “Network” (1976) despite only appearing in about five minutes of the movie. That’s the shortest performance ever to win an Academy Award, but she’s far from alone when it comes to Oscar brevity. Dench won Best Supporting Actress for “Shakespeare in Love” (1998) for an eight-minute performance. Ben Johnson won Best Supporting Actor for 10 minutes of “The Last Picture Show” (1971). And Anne Hathaway won Best Supporting Actress for appearing in “Les Miserables” (2012) for 15 minutes. That’s just to name a few.
For Straight, Johnson and Hathaway in particular, their victories came down to one big, showstopping scene. That’s good news for Henry, who takes center stage in the middle of “Beale Street” when Daniel tells Fonny about his experience with police and the prison system. It’s not just a memorable scene, it also goes to the heart of the film’s themes about the criminal justice system.
It helps that Henry is in the middle of a honeymoon period in the industry. His breakthrough came in 2016 in the debut season of “Atlanta,” co-starring as aspiring rapper Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles. Then in 2017 he earned an Emmy nomination for guest-starring on “This is Us.” But 2018 is the year his career has really taken off. In addition to earning another Emmy nom (this time for “Atlanta”), he also appeared on Broadway in the play “Lobby Hero” and earned a Tony nom.
This fall he’s appearing in three films in addition to “Beale Street”: “White Boy Rick,” “Widows” and the animated film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” And on top of that he has shot three more films that will open next year: “Superintelligence,” “The Woman in the Window” and “Child’s Play.” It’s a good time to be in the Brian Tyree Henry business, so Oscar voters may decide to jump on the bandwagon, especially if “Beale Street” takes off like Jenkins’s last film, “Moonlight,” which won Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali. Will Henry follow in those footsteps?
Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on January 22.