Will this year’s Best Actor race at the Oscars see an upset like 2003?

Rami Malek is looking like a lock for Best Actor at this Sunday’s Academy Awards. But be warned: the way this awards season has played out, his battle with Christian Bale (“Vice”) feels pretty darn familiar to one of the best in Oscars history: Daniel Day-Lewis vs. Jack Nicholson who locked horns in 2003 for their star turns in “Gangs of New York” and “About Schmidt” respectively.

At that point, Nicholson had already won all three of his Oscars (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Terms of Endearment,” and “As Good as it Gets”) while Day-Lewis had only one (for “My Left Foot”), He has since gone on to become the first three-time Best Actor champ (the other two for “There Will Be Blood” and “Lincoln”).

The two performances were in stark contrast – Nicholson’s was in a dramedy in which he played a  recent-retiree traveling to his daughter’s wedding, while Day-Lewis was bold and terrifying as old-timey New York gang leader Bill the Butcher. It was like comparing a razor sharp piece of chalk with a melancholy block of cheese. No wonder voters couldn’t settle on a unanimous decision.

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Nicholson, placed in the drama category at the Globes (if that film were made today, he’d be placed in comedy without a doubt), beat Day-Lewis to win the Golden Globe. Day-Lewis won on home turf at the BAFTAS and was named victor at the SAGs, only for the two of them to then tie at the Critics’ Choice awards.

Athough, we haven’t seen a tie between Malek and Bale this year, the two have the same split and number of awards as Nicholson and Day-Lewis did, with Bale this year’s Nicholson and Malek this year’s Day-Lewis. Here’s the break down:

Day-Lewis: Critics’ Choice, BAFTA, SAG
Malek: Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG

Nicholson: Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe
Bale: Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe

See? Bale has won the same pair of awards that Nicholson did, while two out of three of Malek’s wins overlap with Day-Lewis’. So perhaps we’ve got a bit more of a battle than many people think? However, what happened at the 2003 Oscars? Day-Lewis and Nicholson both lost and Adrien Brody won for “The Pianist.”

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Could we see that scenario play out again this year?

Bradley Cooper and Viggo Mortensen are the likeliest Best Actor nominees to pull a Brody should Bale and Malek split the vote; sorry Willem Dafoe. But which of the two is likelier to do so?

Mortensen shines in transformative role that displays this actor’s often underrated skills. And “Green Book” is already winning one acting Oscar for Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”). While “A Star is Born” has been given a rough ride this awards season and underperformed everywhere, it’s still got eight Oscar nominations. Voters may want to reward Cooper, who became a multi-hyphenate with this film and Best Actor could be the best way to do that. His snub by the directors branch may entice voters to make it up to him and vote for him in this acting race.

What do you think?

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 2019 Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on February 24.

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