When “Mudbound” brought Mary J. Blige Oscar bids for acting and songwriting (“Mighty River”) in 2018, a trail was blazed and an annual tradition began. In 2019, Lady Gaga won for penning “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” and was simultaneously included in the Best Actress lineup. Last year, Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”) competed for both Best Actress and Best Original Song (“Stand Up”). The trend is set to continue this year now that Leslie Odom Jr. is expected to reap double bids for “One Night in Miami.” He would be the first man to achieve this double act and could be the first person to pull off both wins.
Since he made his Broadway debut in “Rent” at age 17, Odom’s singing voice has been an integral part of his acting career. In 2012, after over a decade of adding theatre and TV roles to his resume, he made his film debut in “Red Tails,” appeared in the Tony-nominated musical “Leap of Faith,” and was promoted to a series regular on the NBC musical drama “Smash.” After releasing a self-titled jazz album and collaborating on a production of “Tick, Tick… Boom!” with Lin-Manuel Miranda, he was cast in Miranda’s hugely successful musical, “Hamilton.” His portrayal of Vice President Aaron Burr earned him both a Tony and a Grammy in 2016.
Since leaving the cast of “Hamilton” nearly five years ago, Odom has focused primarily on his film career. His fifth feature film performance as soul singer Sam Cooke in the Amazon Prime release “One Night in Miami” has been widely hailed as his best, with Simran Hans (The Observer) calling him “a lightning rod of charisma in the role.” With Regina King at the helm, the film depicts a fictional meeting in 1964 during which Cooke, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Jim Brown discuss their roles in the civil rights movement. What begins as a lecture led by Malcolm X quickly turns into a heated debate between him and Cooke in which they call each other’s legacies into question and defend their differing means to the same end of racial equity.
Through his thoughtful portrayal, Odom “reveals the anger and the frustration behind Cooke’s ingratiating stage presence” (Alonso Duralde, The Wrap) and steers the narrative’s most powerful arc. He and his velvet-like voice are also at the center of the film’s most impactful scenes, including ones that feature rousing renditions of “Chain Gang” and “A Change Is Gonna Come.” In addition to recreating an album’s worth of Cooke’s most well-known tunes, he collaborated with Sam Ashworth to write and record the original song “Speak Now,” which plays over the end credits.
So far, Odom has collected over a dozen critics awards for his acting and songwriting and has earned double bids at the Critics Choice awards and Golden Globes. He is also up for two SAG awards for his individual performance and as part of the ensemble cast. He currently ranks third in our Best Supporting Actor Oscar race behind Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) and Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”). He and Ashworth sit in first place in the Best Original Song category with 7/2 odds. We predict that “One Night in Miami” will also compete for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
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