2021 Oscars: Best Actor lineup is the most diverse ever

The 2021 Oscar nominees for Best Actor are Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”), Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”), Gary Oldman (“Mank”), and Steven Yeun (“Minari”). Boseman (31/10) is favored to win by our odds, followed in order by Hopkins (39/10), Ahmed (4/1), Yeun (9/2), and Oldman (9/2). 

For the fifth time in 10 years, the Best Actor lineup includes more newcomers than veterans. Ahmed, Boseman, and Yeun not only share the commonality of being first-timers, but also represent the most diverse group in the history of this category. Boseman follows Denzel Washington, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Daniel Kaluuya as the fourth Black man to vie for this award over the last decade. After Ben Kingsley, Ahmed is only the second actor of South Asian descent ever recognized here, while Yeun is the very first East Asian nominee.

The late Boseman has also made history as the fifth actor to posthumously compete for this prize. He is preceded by James Dean (“East of Eden,” 1956 and “Giant,” 1957), Spencer Tracy (“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” 1968), Peter Finch (“Network,” 1977), and Massimo Troisi (“The Postman,” 1996). Finch is the only one to have prevailed, while Heath Ledger is the only deceased actor to win in a different category (Best Supporting Actor, “The Dark Knight,” 2009). 

PREDICT the 2021 Oscar winners through April 25

Hopkins triumphed here in 1992 for “The Silence of the Lambs” and subsequently collected nominations for his lead roles in “The Remains of the Day” (1994) and “Nixon” (1996) and his featured turns in “Amistad” (1998) and “The Two Popes” (2020).

Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” brought him a win in this category three years ago. He was first recognized in 2012 for his performance in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” 

This year’s lead male nominees have an average age of 52, which is the sixth 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 remains the oldest Best Actor champion. Only three older men have earned lead bids since: Richard Farnsworth (“The Straight Story,” 2000), Bruce Dern (“Nebraska,” 2014), and Hopkins. At 83, Hopkins is the first octogenarian Best Actor nominee and has a shot at becoming the oldest Oscar-winning actor of all time by breaking the record set by 82-year-old supporting performer Christopher Plummer (“Beginners,” 2012).

The most recent victors in this category are Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker,” 2020), Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” 2019), Oldman (“Darkest Hour,” 2018), and Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea,” 2017). This year’s winner will be revealed during the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony, airing April 25 on ABC.

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