Frontrunners are already forming for the Oscar Best Supporting Actor race, according to early predictions at Gold Derby. While most films in contention have not yet been released, enough teaser trailers are out there, ranging from “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and “The Irishman” to “Joker” and “Ford v Ferrari” to provide some sense of what at least feels like a worthy contender. We’ve confirmed category placements with studios or campaigners, but — as awards season veterans know — such labels can change later. And once the fall film fests commence, the standings will likely rapidly shift.
Here are the current top 10 supporting actor picks on the Gold Derby site, in order, as of Aug. 13:
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. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.”
5. Gary Oldman (“The Laundromat,” premieres at the Venice film festival): Oldman is shady 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 Meryl 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.
6. 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.
7. Timothee Chalamet (“Little Women,” opens Dec. 25): The eighth film version of Louisa May Alcott’s enduring coming-of-age period piece set in New England during the Civil War focuses on the four March sisters and their mother who await the return of their pastor father. The actor plays Laurie, whose marriage proposal is rejected by willful writer Jo (Saoirse Ronan).
Oscar history: He was nominated as a lead for his own coming-of-age tale, 2017’s “Call Me by Your Name.”
8. 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 directs 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.”
9. Matthew Rhys (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” premieres at the Toronto film festival): The Emmy-winning lead of FX’s “The Americans” plays a cynical writer from “Esquire” magazine who is tasked to do a profile on Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), the iconic children’s TV host. Their encounter would change his perspective on life. His character is called Lloyd Vogel, but he is based on Tom Junod, who once confounded his readers by combining fact and fiction in a satirical piece on R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe and made them find out what was fabricated by going to the “Esquire’s” website.
Oscar history: None yet.
10. John Lithgow (“Untitled Jay Roach Project,” opens Dec. 20): Showtime’s just-concluded miniseries, “The Loudest Voice,” was a warm-up for this movie about Roger Ailes, the late chairman and CEO of Fox News who left in disgrace after facing countless charges of on-the-job sexual harassment. It will be intriguing to compare Russell Crowe‘s TV version of the man with Lithgow’s portrayal. That he is seen as a supporting player probably means the actresses in the cast including Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman are the main event.
Oscar history: Definitely in the too long denied club. Lithgow was nominated for his role as transgender ex-football player Roberta Muldoon in 1983’s “The World According to Garp” and for 1984’s “Terms of Endearment” as one of Debra Winger‘s extramarital admirers.
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.