‘Belfast’ stars Caitriona Balfe and Jamie Dornan to campaign in Oscars supporting races

In what should be a boon for their respective awards fates, not to mention their film itself, “Belfast” stars Caitriona Balfe and Jamie Dornan will campaign in the supporting actress and actor races, respectively, at the 2022 Oscars

The news, long speculated about, was revealed by Variety on Monday afternoon. Focus Features, which is set to distribute “Belfast” in theaters starting November 12, later confirmed the news to Gold Derby.

Balfe and Dornan have been on the receiving end of strong reviews since “Belfast” exploded onto the festival scene at the Telluride Film Festival in September. The film, written and directed by Kenneth Branagh and based on his own upbringing in the title capital city, later won the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival, a reliable bellwether for Best Picture success and awards-season bona fides.

Set in the late 1960s, “Belfast” stars newcomer Jude Hill as Buddy, a young stand-in for Branagh. Balfe, best known for her success on “Outlander,” and Dornan, whose most high-profile role thus far is the “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchise, play Buddy’s parents. Each is given a showcase moment in the film, and pundits have already whispered about a possible Oscar nomination for the stars — especially Balfe. 

“It’s lovely that people connect to it and enjoy it. I feel happy for Ken because I know how much he put into this and it means so much to him,” Balfe told Entertainment Weekly about the festival buzz. “To see people embrace it because it resonated with them, that makes me happy… It feels great when you enjoy the process of making something when the experience is special to you on a personal level. To see that go out into the world and touch people, it feels great. Even if it didn’t, it’d still be a special film to me. But the fact that it is… it’s the cherry on top.”

The placement of Balfe and Dornan in the supporting actor categories puts them on the same proverbial ballot as “Belfast” co-stars Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds. The veterans play Buddy’s paternal grandparents in the film, and the expectation had been that both could factor in the Oscar race as well. (The “Belfast” ensemble was so well-reviewed out of Telluride, The Hollywood Reporter awards editor Scott Feinberg speculated that the film could land nominations for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. With the category placement, now that prediction has become moot, however.)

With the headline stars now set as supporting contenders, Hill is officially the only “Belfast” actor in a lead category: he’ll campaign for Best Actor.

Balfe and Dornan enter supporting actor races that appear wide open at the moment, and it’s expected they’ll each rise up the Gold Derby predictions charts now that their placement has been confirmed. At the moment, Ann Dowd leads in the Best Supporting Actress category, while Richard Jenkins is at the front of the Best Supporting Actor category. But unlike those stars — who appear, respectively, in “Mass” and “The Humans” — Balfe and Dornan have the added heft of starring in a Best Picture front-runner.

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