After BAFTAs, watch out for Mike Faist (‘West Side Story’) at the Oscars

Ever since Steven Spielberg’s magical adaptation of “West Side Story” first started screening last November, Mike Faist has slowly been gaining momentum for his charismatic, scene-stealing turn as Jets leader Riff. Critics were quick to single out Faist’s performance in the film’s already rave reviews. “A twitchy, wiry delight” hailed Robbie Collin of The Telegraph. “His dancing has a caffeinated, angular beauty”, wrote Stephanie Zacharek of Time Magazine. David Sims of The Atlantic concluded, “Faist’s sinewy, charged work as Riff is a real revelation”.

Critics groups quickly caught onto the buzz. Of the 20 regional circles that have chimed in since “West Side Story” started screening, Faist has received 10 nominations and nabbed a 3rd place prize at the National Society of Film Critics and a win at the Phoenix Critics Circle.

Despite a lack of wide visibility as well as screener issues inhibiting Faist’s momentum at the early industry precursors (he was snubbed at Critics Choice and SAG), the new juried system at BAFTA played in the 29-year-old’s favour. Each jury member was required to watch every long-listed performance and subsequently Faist landed his first major precursor nomination in the supporting actor category.

This BAFTA nomination is indicative of the passion for Faist’s performance. Even though “West Side Story” underperformed overall at BAFTA, he was still able to be singled out. This momentum is only increasing in the lead up to Oscar nominations and him being a part of a Best Picture juggernaut in “West Side Story” will only help him. According to our combined odds, “West Side Story” is currently predicted to reap 10 Oscar bids; thus, we know the film will be widely viewed by academy voters.

More specifically, we predict most of the acting branch is likely to have seen his performance, as there are an additional three actors apart from Faist in “West Side Story” in the respective top 10 of our combined odds: Ariana DeBose (1st in supporting actress), Rita Moreno (8th in supporting actress) and Rachel Zegler (9th in lead actress). Faist currently sits at 7th in our combined odds for supporting actor.

Eight of our experts predict a nomination for Faist, who was Tony-nominated for his role as Connor Murphy in the hit Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen”. the 5th slot in this year’s supporting actor lineup is so wide open. Other contenders vying for that final spot include SAG nominees Bradley Cooper (“Licorice Pizza”) and Ben Affleck (“The Tender Bar”), Critics Choice nominees Jamie Dornan (“Belfast”) and J.K. Simmons (“Being the Ricardos”), as well as fellow BAFTA nominee Jesse Plemmons (“The Power of The Dog”).

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