When people look back at 2020, it’s going to be hard to think of an entertainer who played more of a central role to the year than Sacha Baron Cohen. In addition to becoming an outspoken agitator against the dangers that modern social media presents, Cohen was a part of two of the year’s most talked about films. One marked with the return of his Kazakh reporter character, Borat, in a sequel to his 2006 box office hit. The other saw him portraying 1960s radical Abbie Hoffman in Aaron Sorkin’s, “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” He reaped Oscar bids for both, contending for the adapted screenplay of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” and as Best Supporting Actor for “Trial.”
His competition in the acting race is: Leslie Odom, Jr. (“One Night in Miami…”), Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”), Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield (both for “Judas and the Black Messiah”). Kaluuya was nominated for Best Actor in 2017 for “Get Out.”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” explores the legal proceedings against Hoffman and seven other prominent figures in the anti-Vietnam War movement who were accused of instigating riots against the Chicago Police Department during the Democratic National Convention in 1968. Cohen uses his natural comic abilities to bring out the publicity-seeking and humorous tendencies of Hoffman. His scenes in which he’s telling the stories of the riot and the trial in the manner of a stand-up comic are solidly delivered, but he’s also able to show a more nuanced side of Hoffman when he’s challenging Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) and when he takes the stand as a witness.
While Kaluuya has dominated the precursors, Cohen could prevail. He looks so much like Hoffman in the movie that its eerie. In addition to that, the love that’s been displayed for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (including a win at the WGA for Adapted Screenplay and a nomination from the PGA) shows that there is an enormous amount of goodwill towards Cohen and that could easily manifest itself into a win for Supporting Actor.
This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “Oscar nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2021 contenders.
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