Eddie Murphy (‘Dolemite is My Name’) is rising in our Oscar odds: Here’s why we mustn’t underestimate him

Eddie Murphy has been gradually rising in our Oscar odds for Best Actor for his performance in “Dolemite is My Name,” but he hasn’t yet cracked the top five in the combined predictions of the Gold Derby readers who have given us their picks here in our predictions center thus far. As of this writing he ranks seventh with 37/1 odds. However, the movie opens on October 4, and I think he may be a bigger threat than we’re giving him credit for.

The Oscar conversation for Best Actor has so far revolved around names like Robert De Niro (“The Irishman“), Adam Driver (“Marriage Story“) and Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood“). But De Niro and DiCaprio already have Oscars, so there may not be a rush to award them again, and Driver is still new to the film awards scene, having just earned his first nomination earlier this year for “BlacKkKlansman,” so the academy might make him wait — just ask DiCaprio, who had to wait 22 year from his first nomination to his eventual win for “The Revenant” (2015).

Meanwhile, Murphy is a veteran who could be considered overdue for Oscar glory like recent Best Actor champs Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”) and Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”). That’s especially true after Murphy earned his first Oscar nom for his supporting role in “Dreamgirls” (2006) only to be upset by Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine”). And Oscar voters often appreciate comedians who stretch themselves creatively, like Robin Williams (“Good Will Hunting”) and Jamie Foxx (“Ray”).

“Dolemite” is a comedy, so voters might not think of it as such a big stretch for Murphy, but it’s also a biopic, which the Oscars often can’t resist. Murphy plays outlandish comedian and unlikely cult movie star Rudy Ray Moore, which gives the actor an opportunity to show off the comedic chops he has spent decades honing while also paying tribute to a showbiz underdog who helped pave the way for Murphy’s own career. It’s a cliche to say, “This is the role he was born to play,” but it kind of is. Murphy is also a producer of the film, which further underlines how much this story means to him.

So you’ve got an overdue Hollywood veteran who already has one nomination under his belt. He’s playing a biographical role like 7 of the last 10 Best Actor winners. And he’s in a movie about show business, like 3 of the last 10 Best Actor champs (the aforementioned Bridges as a country singer in “Crazy Heart,” Jean Dujardin as a silent film star in “The Artist,” Rami Malek as rocker Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody”).

And let’s not forget Best Picture champs that told stories about entertainers and their struggles like “Shakespeare in Love” (1998), “Argo” (2012) “Birdman” (2014) and even “Green Book” (2018). The academy voters who pick the Oscar winners are all Hollywood insiders themselves, so they often respond well to stories about the tireless commitment of artists like Rudy Ray Moore. And Eddie Murphy for that matter. The show must go on, and it might go on with Murphy in the role of Oscar winner.

Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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