The eight actors listed below share a few things in common beyond their profession. They star in films that might be part of the Oscar conversation this year. And while each have been up for a Best Actor trophy previously — some more than once — they haven’t yet claimed an Oscar as leads. While the ongoing pandemic is upending life for everyone, including the entertainment industry and theater chains, it is hard to know exactly how the need for social distancing will affect screenings. Streaming sites and VOD will be more important than ever since the academy has ruled such films eligible for consideration, provided they had originally intended a theatrical rollout for those films.
But if “Hamilton” can draw thousands of viewers to Disney+, it’s likely these popular actors will have the power to attract eyeballs as well to a smaller screen. Presuming their films actually come out this year as scheduled, here is the not-so-hateful eight. Let us know in our poll at the bottom of this post which one you’d most like to see take home an Oscar next year.
George Clooney (“The Midnight Sky”): In a post-apocalyptic world, a solitary scientist in the Arctic who tries to stop a group of astronauts from landing amidst a global catastrophic event. Clooney, who also directs the Netflix title, won as a supporting actor for the 2005 political thriller “Syriana” and shared in the Best Picture prize for 2012’s “Argo” as a producer. He has competed for Best Actor for 2008’s “Michael Clayton,” 2010’s “Up in the Air” and 2012’s “The Descendants.”
Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Courier”): The historical drama focuses on real-life British businessman Greville Wynne, who became an MI-6 agent during the Cold War and helped the CIA penetrate the Soviet nuclear program and defuse the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. The Sundance title earned generally positive reviews earlier this year. Cumberbatch’s lone Best Actor nomination was for 2014’s “The Imitation Game” as decoding genius Alan Turing during World War II.
Timothee Chalamet (“Dune”): This hot young actor plays Paul Atreides, who lives with family on a dangerous desert planet Arrakis that is the source of a valuable life-extending drug known as “the spice.” The original David Lynch-directed big-screen version of the sci-fi tale was a notorious flop in 1984. Here is hoping filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) handles the sci-fi thriller with more care. Chalamet was previously nominated for his coming-of-age role in the 2017 romantic drama “Call Me By Your Name.”
Matt Damon (“Stillwater,” “The Last Duel”): Damon has two paths to Best Actor Oscar-dom this year. The first is a drama directed by Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”) and starring Damon as a rough-hewn Oklahoma oil rig worker who reunites with his estranged daughter when she is imprisoned for a murder she claims she didn’t commit. The second feature is a historical drama directed by Ridley Scott set in 14th century France as Damon is forced to engage in a sword fight to the death with his best friend, whom he accuses of raping his wife. Damon has an Oscar for co-writing 1998’s “Good Will Hunting” but failed to win as Best Actor in the film. He also competed in the same category for 2016’s “The Martian,” which was helmed by his current “Last Duel” director Scott, so perhaps lightning will strike twice for them.
Michael Fassbender (“Next Goal Wins”): This sports comedy directed by Taika Waititi of “Jojo Rabbit” fame stars Fassbender as Thomas Rongen, the coach of the American Samoa national football team who turned the underdogs into a force to be reckoned with. Fassbender earned his lone Best Actor nom as the title co-founder of Apple in Danny Boyle‘s 2015 biopic “Steve Jobs.”
Michael Keaton (“Trial of the Chicago 7”): Keaton takes on the role of Ramsey Clark, the liberal attorney general under LBJ who discouraged indicting the Chicago 7 protesters who demonstrated during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He believed most of the violence was the result of police actions, not the countercultural demonstrators, a topic that resonates now more than ever in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests. The Aaron Sorkin film has a jam-packed ensemble cast including everyone from Sacha Baron Cohen to Eddie Redmayne. But if any actor stands out, it could be Keaton, who earned his lone Best Actor try for 2014’s “Birdman.”
Bill Murray (“On the Rocks”): Murray reunites with filmmaker Sofia Coppola — whose “Lost in Translation” from 2003 is the source of his lone Best Actor bid — for this story of a gadabout playboy father who reunites with his adult daughter as they share an adventure in New York City.
Liam Neeson (“Ordinary Love”): This intimate film, a far cry from Neeson’s “Taken” franchise action thrillers, finds the actor in domestic mode as half of a long-married couple whose wife discovers she has breast cancer. He and Lesley Manville have an easy chemistry even as their union gets put through the wringer as she battles the disease. This early release might gain some traction. But it is a far cry from Neeson’s Oscar-nominated lead role in 1993’s “Schindler’s List” as a German businessman during World War II who fights to save more than one thousand Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.
Take the poll below and pick the actor who might be most deserving of finally earning a Best Actor Academy Award. And share any other thoughts below in the comments.