2022 Oscars Best Actor nominees: First all veterans line-up since 1981

The 2022 Oscar nominees for Best Actor are Javier Bardem (“Being the Ricardos”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”), Andrew Garfield (“tick, tick… BOOM!”), Will Smith (“King Richard”), and Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”). Smith (16/5) is favored to win by our odds, followed in order by Cumberbatch (19/5), Garfield (4/1), Washington (9/2), and Bardem (9/2).

All five of these men have contended here at least once before, making theirs the first Best Actor lineup since 1981 to include no first-time acting nominees. Furthermore, it is the very first to consist only of previous lead nominees. The last time this came close to happening was in 2003, when newcomer and eventual victor Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”) competed against category veterans Nicolas Cage (“Adaptation”), Michael Caine (“The Quiet American”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Gangs of New York”), and Jack Nicholson (“About Schmidt”).

Washington’s seven lead nominations make him one of the nine most-recognized performers in the category’s history. The record of nine Best Actor bids was set by Spencer Tracy in 1968 and matched by Laurence Olivier in 1979. Washington triumphed on his third lead outing for “Training Day” (2002) after having scored a supporting win for “Glory” (1990). He also picked up notices for his featured turn in “Cry Freedom” (1988) and his starring performances in “Malcolm X” (1993), “The Hurricane” (2000), “Flight” (2013), “Fences” (2017), and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” (2018).

Bardem is also a past winner for his supporting role in “No Country for Old Men” (2008). He has already vied for this prize twice as the star of “Before Night Falls” (2001) and “Biutiful” (2011). Cumberbatch and Garfield have each been nominated here once for “The Imitation Game” (2015) and “Hacksaw Ridge” (2017), respectively.

Smith has two previous lead bids to his name for “Ali” (2002) and “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2007). He and Washington made history 20 years ago as the first pair of Black actors to face off in this category, and their current rematch constitutes the fifth such instance. The middle three involved Don Cheadle (“Hotel Rwanda”) and Jamie Foxx (“Ray”) in 2005, Smith and Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”) in 2007, and Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) and Washington in 2018. With an additional Best Picture bid for “King Richard,” Smith follows Washington (“Fences”) as the second Black person to score concurrent producing and acting nominations.

This year’s lead male nominees have an average age of 51, which is the eighth highest in the history of the category. The record is held by the 1982 group, whose ages ranged from 44 to 76 and averaged out to 58. The eldest competitor, Henry Fonda (“On Golden Pond”), emerged victorious that year and held the title of oldest Best Actor champion until Anthony Hopkins (83, “The Father”) supplanted him just last year. At 67, Washington is the 16th oldest man to ever compete for this award and would be the third oldest to win it.

The most recent victors in this category are Hopkins (“The Father,” 2021), Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker,” 2020), Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” 2019), and Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour,” 2018). This year’s winner will be revealed during the 94th Academy Awards ceremony, airing March 27 on ABC.

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