Frontrunners are already forming in the Oscar race for Best Supporting Actor, according to early predictions at Gold Derby. While most films in contention have not yet been released, many were recently seen by film critics and industry insiders at the Toronto, Telluride and Venice Film Festivals. We’ve confirmed most category placements with studios or campaigners, but some decisions aren’t yet final. Meantime, Gold Derby lists Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) as well as Christian Bale and Matt Damon (“Ford v. Ferrari”) in both lead and supporting categories in our prediction center.
Here are the current top 10 supporting actor picks according to racetrack odds based upon our users’ predictions as of Sept. 17:
1. Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”): Pitt doesn’t have a designated category yet, so he appears both as a lead and supporting candidate on the Gold Derby site. But fans couldn’t wait to pick him to triumph for his depiction of cool and layback stunt man and sidekick Cliff Booth, who is ever loyal to Western TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is suffering from a career crisis as well as a heavy drinking problem. Somehow the Pitt scoots up on a roof without breaking a sweat while flashing the rock-hard abs of a guy half his age. This is the first time these heartthrobs have combined forces and they both will likely benefit from the double dose of star power.
Oscar history: His first nomination was for a supporting role in the 1995 dystopian time-travel film “Twelve Monkeys” as an intriguing yet crazy-eyed mental patient with fanatical views with little of his golden-boy glow about him. Next came a lead nomination for his aging-backwards hero in 2008’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” He also stood out in “Moneyball” as a real-life baseball team manager who recruits an economics grad to devise a formula to pick a perfect team, earning his third lead nod. But his lone Oscar is as a producer of the 2013 Best Picture winner “12 Years a Slave.” To say he is overdue for acting recognition is an understatement.
2. Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” opens Nov. 22): Hanks, who is considered one of the nicest stars in Hollywood, feels born to play beloved PBS children’s show host Fred Rogers. He has that inviting smile down pat and can adapt an upbeat attitude without feeling phoney. Instead of a biopic, though, the film focuses on cynical “Esquire” writer (Matthew Rhys from TV’s “The Americans”) based on a real-life journalist whose life is changed by his friendship with the generous and caring television icon.
Oscar history: Much like Meryl Streep, many assume Hanks has won countless Oscars. The truth is, he has been bestowed with just two Best Actor Oscars — back to back no less — for 1993’s “Philadelphia” and 1994’s “Forrest Gump.” He was also nominated as a lead for 1988’s “Big,” 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan” and 2000’s “Cast Away.” That is it. No “Apollo 13,” no “The Green Mile,” no “Saving Mr. Banks,” no “Captain Phillips,” no “Sully,” no “The Post.” Come on, you voters. It’s been nearly two decades since his last chance at a third trophy. Something is wrong here.
3. Al Pacino (“The Irishman,” premiering at the New York Film Festival in September): Pacino is no stranger to mob violence but this is a different breed than the tight-knit Corleone family in “The Godfather” trilogy. It’s dirty business served Martin Scorsese-style, and he gets to be labor leader Jimmy Hoffa who hires Robert De Niro’s hitman to go after his opponents.
Oscar history: Pacino has been in the supporting category three times before — for 1972’s “The Godfather,” 1990’s “Dick Tracy” as crime boss Alphonse “Big Boy” Caprice and 1992’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” as Ricky Roma, a real-estate company’s top “closer.” But he has had five shots at a lead trophy: 1973’s “Serpico,” 1974’s “The Godfather Part II,” 1975’s “Dog Day Afternoon,” 1979’s “… And Justice for All.” He would finally win for his blind, alcoholic and surly retired Army officer who helps a student at a prep school who is baby-sitting him get out of a difficult situation in 1992’s “Scent of a Woman.”
4. Willem Dafoe (“The Lighthouse,” opens on Oct. 18): This twisted black-and-white psychological nightmare about a pair of isolated 19th-century New England lighthouse keepers already creeped out the Cannes crowd in a good way. Dafoe’s own gaunt visage is accessorized with a gnarly bush of a beard and an accent that suggests a haunted pirate. Considering he and his co-star, Robert Pattinson, have both won acclaim in previous movies as lonely vampires somehow seems appropriate.
Oscar history: Overdue doesn’t begin to describe Dafoe’s inexplicable Oscar-less status. He has been nominated three times in the supporting category, for his saintly sergeant in 1986’s “Platoon,” as a blood-sucking silent actor in 2000’s “Shadow of the Vampire” and for his humble yet heroic motel manager in 2017’s “The Florida Project.” Last year, he was up for his first lead nod in “At Eternity’s Gate,” a sensitive portrait of painter Vincent Van Gogh.
5. Joe Pesci (“The Irishman”): The actor, who came out of retirement to reunite with his pal Scorsese, is also slotted in supporting as the so-called “The Quiet Don,” Russell Bufalino, the boss of a small crime family involved with Jimmy Hoffa and a pal of hitman Frank Sheeran.
Oscar history: Pesci won a supporting Academy Award for his sadistic and volatile gangster Tommy DeVito in 1990’s “Goodfellas.” He also competed in the same category as Joey LaMotta, the younger brother and manager of former middleweight boxing champ Jake LaMotta in 1980’s “Raging Bull.”
6. Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes,” opens Nov. 27): In 2013, Pope Benedict, who is all about dogma and reason, reaches out to the future Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce), an Argentine native known for his compassion and empathy, as the German pontiff considers retirement. The two-hander gives each actor a chance to score acting points galore as Benedict flashes his intellect while Francis displays his humility as both try to save the church from scandal and crisis. Directed by Fernando Meirelles.
Oscar history: Hopkins won Best Actor as his indelible portrait of mad-man and man-eater Hannibal Lecter in 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs.” He would nominated as a lead twice more for his loyal to a fault butler in the 1993 period piece “The Remains of the Day” and in the title role as the disgraced 37th president in the 1995 historical drama “Nixon.” He competed as a supporting actor for his role as John Quincy Adams, who provides legal advice in the case of a possible mutiny by slaves from Africa in 1997’s “Amistad.” Given that he has never been up for the honor again for more than two decades, it is about time to salute this 81-year-old actor again.
7. Jamie Foxx (“Just Mercy,” premieres at the Toronto film festival): In this real-life account, Foxx is Walter McMillan, an Alabama businessman who was wrongly convicted of capital murder even though he had been at a church fish fry with countless witnesses. He spent six years on death row before lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) took on his case in 1988 and got the charge dropped in 1993 for lack of evidence. The memoir written by Stevenson and used as the basis of the legal drama has been compared to “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Oscar history: Foxx is one of 11 performers who have competed for both a lead and supporting Oscar in the same year. He won a Best Actor trophy as blind R&B artist Ray Charles in 2004’s “Ray” and also was up for his supporting part as a Los Angeles cab driver who ends up driving Tom Cruise‘s hitman as he goes on a murderous spree.
8. Sterling K. Brown (“Waves,” opens Nov. 1): Brown is a domineering dad of a well-off suburban African-American family in Florida whose teen son is a high-school wrestling star and whose daughter is less of a priority for him. When an unexpected domestic crisis occurs, traumatic yet very human and sometimes tender upheavals follow. Directed by Trey Edward Shults ( 2015’s “Krisha”) with flashy camerawork and a terrific soundtrack.
9.Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit,” premieres at the Toronto film festival): From Charlie Chaplin (“The Great Dictator”) to Bruno Ganz (“Downfall”), there’s a collective of actors who have played Adolf Hitler on the big screen. The latest member is this quirky New Zealand filmmaker. Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok”) not only handles directing and writing duties but plays a comic version of the German madman who is the imaginary friend of a misfit fatherless boy who attends a Nazi Youth Camp.
Oscar history: He was nominated for a 2004 live-action short film, “Two Cars, One Night.”
10. Gary Oldman (“The Laundromat,” opens Sept. 27): Oldman is charismatic yet underhanded German lawyer Jurgen Mossack, who ran a Panamanian firm tied to an offshore tax scheme that relied on countless shell companies utilized by rich and powerful political bigwigs around the world. The investigation would be known as the Panama Papers. All I know is I can’t wait to hear Oldman speak with a German accent and go head to head with Streep as a vacationer who stumbles upon the dirty doings.
Oscar history: Until recently, Oldman didn’t care much about stumping for awards. But that changed when he was nominated for his lead role as John le Carre’s British spy guy George Smiley, who comes out of retirement to hunt down a Soviet double agent in 2011’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” But it was his spot-on performance as Winston Churchill in 2017’s “Darkest Hour” that led to a lead Oscar trophy.
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.