Over the last decade, Oscar voters have demonstrated a clear preference for longer supporting male performances instead of traditionally shorter ones. They have chosen the actor with the highest or second highest screen time in his lineup 50% of the time since 2011, and the record for longest Best Supporting Actor-winning performance has been broken twice in that time. Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained,” 2013) did it first by appearing on screen for one hour, six minutes, and 17 seconds, followed by Mahershala Ali (“Green Book,” 2019) with 21 seconds more.
While the actors competing for this year’s award collectively have less screen time than the 2020 nominees, the majority of them still clock in with relatively high amounts. In terms of percentage, three of them even outpace the most recent winner, Brad Pitt, whose performance takes up 34.21% of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and is less than 4% shorter than that of his Best Actor-nominated costar, Leonardo DiCaprio. The stage appears to be set for yet another arguably lead performer to take the supporting prize this year.
The 2021 Best Supporting Actor nominees have an average screen time of 39 minutes and 47 seconds, or 32.50% of their respective films. In terms of actual time, their average is the eighth highest in the history of the category. Their percentage average is the 13th highest and only 0.68% lower than last year’s. The last 10 winners of this award have had an average screen time of 40 minutes and 48 seconds (or 31.76%).
Leading the 2021 pack in terms of screen time is Leslie Odom Jr., who appears in 54 minutes and 20 seconds (or 47.52%) of “One Night in Miami.” Only 39 longer performances have ever been nominated for the award and just 10 have won it. A mere 76 seconds separate Odom and his costar, Kingsley Ben-Adir, who campaigned for Best Actor. That closeness, as well as the narrative importance of their two characters’ opposing points of view, has sparked discussion over whether or not one of them was placed in the wrong category.
That category placement debate has been overshadowed by the one involving the actors in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” We were stunned when LaKeith Stanfield, who campaigned as a lead, joined his costar, Daniel Kaluuya, in the supporting lineup. They are the 20th pair of actors from the same film to compete against each other here. In the few instances where a winner has emerged from such a situation, the one with more screen time has almost always had the advantage. Stanfield has the edge in that regard with 49 minutes and 51 seconds (39.75%) compared to Kaluuya’s 46 minutes and nine seconds (36.80%).
Next is Sacha Baron Cohen, who has 30 minutes and 14 seconds of screen time in “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which amounts to 23.23% of the film. He has more screen time than all but two of his castmates: past Oscar champs Eddie Redmayne (Best Actor, “The Theory of Everything,” 2015) and Mark Rylance (Best Supporting Actor, “Bridge of Spies,” 2016). At the beginning of this awards season, the film’s entire cast made the decision to run as an ensemble of supporting players, and Baron Cohen was singled out as the favorite early on.
The supporting male nominee with the least screen time this year is Paul Raci, who appears in 18 minutes and 21 seconds (or 15.19%) of “Sound of Metal.” Only three actors with lower totals have been recognized over the past 10 years: Alan Arkin (“Argo”), Sam Elliott (“A Star Is Born”), and Sam Rockwell (“Vice”). Raci would be the 13th actor to triumph in this category for appearing on screen for less than 20 minutes and the first since Arkin won for “Little Miss Sunshine” in 2007.
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