Taika Waititi (‘Jojo Rabbit’) would make Oscar history with Supporting Actor nomination

As actor-director Taika Waititi continues to establish his eccentric presence in Hollywood, he might just be on the precipice of making Oscar history. Waititi’s latest film, “Jojo Rabbit,” finds him not only in the director’s chair but co-starring as Adolf Hitler, who appears as an imaginary friend to young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis). Described as an “anti-hate satire,” the film has been divisive among festival-goers thus far, but Waititi has earned strong praise from critics for his unique take on one of history’s biggest monsters. If the praise continues all the way to Waititi landing a Best Supporting Actor nomination, he wouldn’t just be the latest person to direct themselves to an Oscar nomination for acting. He would be the first person in Oscar history to direct himself to a supporting nomination.

There is a history of actor-directors landing Best Actor nominations, all the way from Charlie Chaplin for “The Great Dictator” in 1940 to Bradley Cooper for “A Star Is Born” this past year. Two have even won with performances they directed themselves: Laurence Olivier for “Hamlet” in 1948 and Roberto Benigni for “Life Is Beautiful” in 1998. Other notable examples include: Orson Welles for “Citizen Kane” (1941), Woody Allen for “Annie Hall” (1977), Kenneth Branagh for “Henry V” (1989), Billy Bob Thornton for “Sling Blade” (1996), Ed Harris for “Pollock” (2000), and Clint Eastwood for “Million Dollar Baby” (2004). Olivier has done it two other times, for “Henry V” (1946) and “Richard III” (1956), as has Warren Beatty for “Heaven Can Wait” (1978) and “Reds” (1981). A woman has not been Oscar nominated for acting in a film they directed.

Typically with these types of projects, the director is also the star, so there has been little opportunity for a director to land a supporting nomination. But can Waititi really break through in Best Supporting Actor? “Jojo Rabbit” won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, which has an extensive history of lining up well with Oscar voters’ taste. Just in the past few years we’ve had winners like “Green Book,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “La La Land,” and “Room,” all of which became Oscar-winning films. “Jojo Rabbit” will likely have some sort of presence at the Oscars based on this precedent, but Best Supporting Actor is shaping up to be one of the most competitive categories of the year.

Looking at the odds from experts, editors, and users at Gold Derby, Waititi is in the top 10 of actors most likely to get into Best Supporting Actor. He may be in for an uphill climb, though, with tough competition like Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), Willem Dafoe (“The Lighthouse”), Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes”), and Al Pacino and Joe Pesci (“The Irishman”). Waititi is more of a dark horse contender for now, but if “Jojo Rabbit” turns into a box office hit and the actor-director charms Academy voters in the months to come, he might just become the latest Oscar first.

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