Best Supporting Actor: Dear old dads like Ciaran Hinds (‘Belfast’) and Troy Kotsur (‘CODA’) often win Oscars

Whippersnapper Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”) has built a significant lead in our Oscar odds for Best Supporting Actor, but the actors ranked second and third pose a major threat. Ciaran Hinds (“Belfast”) and Troy Kotsur (“CODA”) are the kinds of veteran character actors who often get their due in the category, and they also play the kind of role that has been celebrated on multiple occasions: dear old dad.

Hinds plays Jamie Dornan‘s kindly father and Jude Hill‘s doting grandfather in Kenneth Branagh‘s semiautobiographical film about growing up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. We currently rank him second with 11/2 odds, with three of the Expert journalists we’ve surveyed betting on him to win: Clayton Davis (Variety), Erik Davis (Fandango), and Sasha Stone (Awards Daily). Thus far he has already won Best Supporting Actor from the National Board of Review in addition to nominations from the Critics Choice Awards and British Independent Film Awards. And though he himself has yet to be nominated for an Oscar, voters have undoubtedly seen him in nominated movies like “Road to Perdition” (2002), “Munich” (2005), “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (2011), “Silence” (2016), and “First Man” (2018). He even voiced the Troll King in the “Frozen” movies.

Kotsur probably isn’t as well known to Hollywood insiders since it’s rare for deaf actors to get such showcase roles in major Oscar contenders. He plays Frank Rossi, a stubborn fisherman fighting for his fair share in business and struggling to understand his hearing daughter’s dream to attend a performing arts college for singing — which he cannot hear. His ascent in our Oscar predictions has happened more recently, starting with his victory at the Gotham Awards against fellow supporting Oscar contenders like Ruth Negga (“Passing”), Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”), and his own co-star Marlee Matlin. But he’s been a fixture in awards races ever since, winning Best Supporting Actor at the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards and earning nominations at the Critics Choice and Independent Spirit Awards. Now our Expert Tim Gray (Variety) thinks he’ll win.

And that’s certainly possible. Consider the other father figures who have won this award over the years like Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine,” 2006) and Christopher Plummer (“Beginners,” 2011). James Coburn (“Affliction,” 1998) also won for playing a dad, though no one would call his character in that film kindly. And though they didn’t play literal dads, Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules,” 1999), Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby,” 2004), and Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight,” 2016) also played fatherly mentors. You could say the same for J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash,” 2014), though I wouldn’t necessarily endorse his character’s brand of fathering.

Motherly characters have done even better in Best Supporting Actress, with winners including Melissa Leo (“The Fighter,” 2010), Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood,” 2014), and Yuh-Jung Youn (“Minari,” 2020). So there’s plenty of precedent for actors to win supporting Oscars for taking younger characters under their wing. Will that be the formula for Hinds or Kotsur to upset Smit-McPhee?

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