Daniel Kaluuya emerged on the scene in 2017 with “Get Out,” a dark comedy hit that unexpectedly took the awards season by storm. He was nominated for his first Academy Award that year as the lead performance in the eventual Best Original Screenplay winner. This year, he contends in supporting for his portrayal of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Kaluuya has already won the Golden Globe, Critics Choice, BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
In the Warner Bros. released, Kaluuya plays a man so persuasive as a progressive political figure that the FBI and Chicago Police Department orchestrated his assassination in 1969. As Hampton, Kaluuya weaves together a portrait of a man who falling in love with Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback) and inspiring a community of disenfranchised people with his powerful speeches. As the titular “Black Messiah,” Kaluuya plays opposite the “Judas” of Lakeith Stanfield in his own nominated performance as William O’Neal.
Stanfield was campaigned in lead throughout the season and hadn’t been nominated in any of the major contests. Kaluuya faces off against three men he’s beaten elsewhere: Leslie Odom, Jr. (“One Night in Miami”) at the Globes, SAG, BAFTA and Critics Choice, Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) at the Globes, SAG and Critics Choice, and Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”) at BAFTA and Critics Choice. No performer in any of the acting categories has won all the major precursor prizes except Kaluuya.
Should Kaluuya go on to win the Oscar, he would become the fourth supporting actor in a row to sweep all five of the top races: Globes, SAG, BAFTA, Critics Choice and Oscar. The last supporting actor to miss was Mahershala Ali‘s run with “Moonlight” in 2017. That year Ali lost the Golden Globe to Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Nocturnal Animals”) and the BAFTA to Dev Patel (“Lion”).
What’s different about the Oscar contest for Kaluuya is that he’s pitted against his co-star for the first time, which could lead to vote-splitting and make room for a different winner. Last year both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci were nominated and lost together for “The Irishman,” but unlike in Kaluuya’s case neither had won prior to that night. Conversely, Sam Rockwell won in 2018 for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” despite competing with co-star Woody Harrelson.
This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “Oscar nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2021 contenders.
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