The Oscars threw one of the biggest curveballs this season when voters nominated both “Judas and the Black Messiah” stars Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield in Best Supporting Actor. But that plot twist, no matter how head-scratching it was, has allowed Kaluuya to join a special club. With his victory on Sunday night, he is now the seventh Best Supporting Actor winner to beat a co-star.
The first six people to accomplish this are Ben Johnson (1971’s “The Last Picture Show”), Robert De Niro (1974’s “The Godfather Part II”), Jason Robards (1977’s “Julia”), Timothy Hutton (1980’s “Ordinary People”), Jack Nicholson (1983’s “Terms of Endearment”) and Sam Rockwell (2017’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”).
Johnson defeated co-star Jeff Bridges, who was on his first of seven nominations. De Niro overcame two co-stars, Michael V. Gazzo and Lee Strasberg. Robards claimed his second straight supporting trophy over “Julia” co-star Maximilian Schell. Then-20-year-old Hutton became the category’s youngest winner and the youngest male acting winner overall with a victory over his “Ordinary People” psychiatrist Judd Hirsch. Nicholson beat co-star John Lithgow for his second of three Oscars. And Rockwell edged out “Three Billboards” colleague Woody Harrelson.
“Judas” is the 20th film to produce multiple Best Supporting Actor nominations. The first was “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939), whose stars Harry Carey and Claude Rains lost to Thomas Mitchell for “Stagecoach.” Until “Three Billboards’” dual bids, the last film with double nominations was 1991’s “Bugsy,” for Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley, who lost to Jack Palance (“City Slicker”). But since that 26-year drought was broken, the category has seen three pair of co-star nominees, the other being Al Pacino and Joe Pesci from “The Irishman” (2019), who fell to Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”).
Kaluuya’s win was widely predicted after he swept the precursors for his fiery turn as former Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton. He was the only acting frontrunner this year to win all the precursors. Stanfield had been campaigned in lead all season, getting in nowhere with precursors and critics’ awards, and nobody expected him to show up in the supporting lineup on nomination day. Besides Stanfield, Kaluuya also beat Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”), Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”) and Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”).
With seven wins in 20 co-star bouts, Best Supporting Actor now has a 35 percent success rate, eclipsing the 34.2 percent rate from 12 victories in 35 co-star face-offs in Best Supporting Actress.
The lead categories rarely see double bids. Best Actor has the third highest rate at 33.3 percent, with four winners from 12 contests. There hasn’t been a co-star pair in the category since F. Murray Abraham prevailed for “Amadeus” (1984) over co-star Tom Hulce. Best Actress has the worst rate and the fewest co-star battles — one win from five, for Shirley MacLaine over her “Terms of Endearment” daughter Debra Winger. The last Best Actress nominee duo was Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon for “Thelma & Louise” (1991), who lost to Jodie Foster for “The Silence of the Lambs.”
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