Don’t underestimate Christian Bale: ‘Ford v Ferrari’ would be his 5th Oscar nomination for a biographical role

Might we be underestimating Christian Bale at the Oscars? He has earned four nominations and one win in just the last 10 years, and his performance as real-life racer Ken Miles in “Ford v Ferrari” is looking more and more like a threat for a Best Actor bid this year. History has proved that it’s perilous to underestimate him, especially when he’s playing a historical figure.

Though Bale had already put together an impressive resume by then, he didn’t get his first Oscar nomination until “The Fighter” (2010), for which he won Best Supporting Actor. He quickly followed that with a Best Actor bid for “American Hustle” (2013), another Best Supporting Actor nom for “The Big Short” (2015), and then he was back in the Best Actor race with “Vice” (2018).

All of those happened to be biographical roles. We know Oscar voters love those, but they seem to be especially fruitful for Bale. His characters in “The Fighter” (Dicky Ecklund), “The Big Short” (Michael Burry) and of course “Vice” (Dick Cheney) were all real people. And his fictionalized role in “American Hustle” (Irving Rosenfeld) was also inspired by a real man, FBI informant Mel Weinberg. What’s especially impressive about that track record is that, of those characters, only Cheney was widely known to the general public, which is the kind of showy imitation Oscar voters usually like. Ken Miles is another biographical role most viewers probably aren’t intimately familiar with, but Oscar voters might vote for it anyway.

Not all of those previous nominations were sure things. We didn’t rank him among our top five predicted contenders for “American Hustle,” and only two of the Expert journalists we polled at the time thought he would make the cut but he managed a nom there anyway. He was in the top five of our Supporting Actor forecasts for “The Big Short,” but our Experts thought he was on the bubble, ranking him fifth in that race.

He’s on the bubble again, ranked eighth in our Experts’ predictions for “Ford v Ferrari” as of this writing, but seven of those savvy journos say he’ll make the cut: Joyce Eng (Gold Derby), Tariq Khan (Fox TV), Susan King (Gold Derby), Sasha Stone (Awards Daily), Anne Thompson (IndieWire), Brian Truitt (USA Today) and Glenn Whipp (LA Times). And they have good reason to think he’ll make the cut: he has already earned surprise nominations at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards. So will he cross the finish line first at the Oscars, or at least in the top five?

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.

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