Four Grammy Awards. Five American Music Awards. Multiple MTV Movie and Video Music Awards. Can Will Smith add a Screen Actors Guild Award to his trophy collection?
Note that I’m not talking about the Oscar here. (At least, not yet.) I’m specifically focused on his individual SAG Award bid. And yes, Mr. Smith should plan to make a little room for a new piece of Hollywood hardware. Here are five reasons why he’ll win the Best Actor SAG Award for Warner Bros’ “King Richard.”
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1. He’s Will Smith.
He’s played a prince, a bad boy and a boxer. He’s battled aliens, cowboys and robots. He’s been one of the biggest stars in the world for a quarter of a century. He’s a legend. And he’s not just a marquee attraction; he’s proven himself as a serious actor. He earned his first Academy Award nomination for playing the title role in 2001’s acclaimed film “Ali.” He would pursue Oscar again five years later for his portrayal of a homeless father and salesman in “The Pursuit of Happyness,” which also garnered him his first SAG Award nom. Smith was back in the awards conversation for the 2015 sports drama “Concussion.” While heavy competition knocked him out of the guild and Oscar races, he did receive his third Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. With his combination of commercial and critical success, his screen actor peers may wish to reward him. This leads me to my next point…
2. He’s due for SAG Award recognition.
There’s a long tradition of the Screen Actors Guild celebrating thespians who haven’t been properly honored by the organization. And sometimes an actor wins more for her/his career achievement than an individual performance. Interestingly enough, many veterans (or at least, familiar faces) won their first SAG film awards for work that wouldn’t bring them the Oscar. In the early days of the guild, there was Jodie Foster in “Nell,” Ed Harris in “Apollo 13,” Lauren Bacall in “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” Gloria Stuart in “Titanic,” Robert Duvall in “A Civil Action” and Annette Bening in “American Beauty.” The trend has largely continued since the turn of the century. Look at Albert Finney in “Erin Brockovich,” Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind,” Ian McKellen in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” Maggie Smith in “Gosford Park,” Daniel Day-Lewis in “Gangs of New York,” Christopher Walken in “Catch Me If You Can,” Paul Giamatti in “Cinderella Man,” Julie Christie in “Away from Her,” Ruby Dee in “American Gangster,” Meryl Streep in “Doubt,” Tommy Lee Jones in “Lincoln,” Denzel Washington in “Fences,” Glenn Close in “The Wife,” Emily Blunt in “A Quiet Place” and Chadwick Boseman in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” History would suggest that this year, SAG Award voters might finally single out Smith.
3. He delivers a career-best performance in “King Richard.”
Reviewers have been kind to “King,” with a 90% “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Smith is described as “towering” in a “dream role.” He gets bonus points for portraying a real person (Richard Williams, the father and coach of tennis legends Venus and Serena.) There’s a slight physical transformation and a distinct speaking style. And he gets bonus-bonus points for playing a (mostly) likeable and sympathetic character. It’s classic awards bait, and guild voters just might take it. The film also just over-performed in the Oscar nominations, earning six bids: picture, actor (Smith), supporting actress (Aunjanue Ellis), original screenplay, film editing and song (“Be Alive”).
SEE 2022 Oscar nominations: Full list of nominees in all 23 categories at the 94th Academy Awards
4. He’s the only one in an ensemble contender.
I used this argument last year when I reasoned that Viola Davis in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” would topple Carey Mulligan in “Promising Young Woman” at the SAG Awards. Statistically speaking, individual acting nominees fare much better if they appear in a picture that is also up for SAG’s Best Cast accolade. And as we all witnessed, Davis in an ensemble entry prevailed over four women who were not. Now Smith finds himself in the same position as Davis, as the films of his rivals Javier Bardem in “Being the Ricardos,” Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Power of the Dog,” Andrew Garfield in “tick, tick…Boom!” and Denzel Washington in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” failed to make the cast lineup. It’s a tragedy for four, but wonderful for one. And that one is Will.
5. There’s probably no one who can beat him.
Bardem seems to have gotten in on Nicole Kidman’s coattails. Even voters who love her “Lucy” will desert his “Desi.” Washington is a revered actor, but is a recent SAG Award recipient who has gained little traction for “Tragedy.” Cumberbatch is undeniably powerful in “Power.” Unfortunately, guild members typically fancy the flashy more than the fancy. And speaking of flashy, Garfield is without a doubt the flashiest of the five. He’s electrifying in a show biz-friendly film that’s been widely seen on Netflix. He certainly ticks all the boxes. Could he boom his way to victory? Not with Will there in his way. He’s simply no match. Expect subjects to coronate Smith, whose “King Richard” will fittingly capture the SAG Award crown.
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