The 2021 Oscar nominees for Best Actress are Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”), Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”), Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”), and Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”). Our current odds indicate that Mulligan (69/20) will take the prize, followed in order by Davis (4/1), Day (4/1), McDormand (4/1), and Kirby (9/2).
McDormand is already one of 14 actresses to score multiple lead wins, having bagged a pair of trophies for “Fargo” (1997) and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2018). This year, she could follow Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, and Meryl Streep into the record books as the fourth woman to win three or more Oscars for acting. McDormand has three supporting bids to her name for “Mississippi Burning” (1989), “Almost Famous” (2001), and “North Country” (2006).
Davis is also a past winner for her supporting role in “Fences” (2017). A victory this year would make her the 22nd woman to earn multiple acting awards and the eighth to win in both categories. After Streep, Jessica Lange, Cate Blanchett, and Renée Zellweger, she would be the fifth to triumph as a lead after first winning as a supporting player. Davis’s first two Oscar bids came for her featured turn in “Doubt” (2009) and her starring role in “The Help” (2012).
Day and Kirby are both Oscar newcomers, while Mulligan was nominated here once before for her performance in “An Education” (2010). Day is the 13th Black woman to be recognized in this category and Davis is the first to ever amass multiple lead bids. This year marks only the second time that two Black female leads have competed against each other, after Diana Ross (“Lady Sings the Blues”) and Cicely Tyson (“Sounder”) faced off in 1973. Like Day, Ross was also nominated for stepping into the shoes of Billie Holiday.
The average age of this year’s leading ladies is 44 and is the ninth highest in the history of the category. The record is held by the 2014 contenders, whose ages ranged from 39 to 79 and averaged out to 55. Including the current one, only 28% of all Best Actress lineups have been entirely made up of women over 30, and only 15% have included two or more women over 50. The last group before this one to include no actresses under 30 was the 2015 one, whose youngest member was 31-year-old Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”).
The most recent victors in this category are Zellweger (“Judy,” 2020), Olivia Colman (“The Favourite,” 2019), McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” 2018), and Emma Stone (“La La Land,” 2017). This year’s winner will be revealed during the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony, airing April 25 on ABC.
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