In 11 of the last 16 years, the Academy Award for Best Actor went to an actor starring in a biopic. While that’s not the only reason Christian Bale and Rami Malek are front-runners in the competition, it certainly doesn’t hurt. That said, the category is stacked with talent this year and everybody (Academy members included) loves a surprise win by a worthy underdog.
Who will the Oscar for Best Actor? Here’s a rundown of the nominees followed by our prediction below.
Christian Bale – Vice
Biopic nominee number one Christian Bale made noise in the industry after completely transforming his physicality to portray former Vice-President Dick Cheney. He gained 40 pounds and even bleached his eyebrows to slip into the Veep’s shoes, but it wasn’t the first time he’s gone to such drastic measures for a role (see also, The Machinist). Bale definitely goes above and beyond for his performances, and that dedication has awarded him heaps of kudos and brownie points from inside the industry and out. Bale wheezes and groans his way through Vice playing a man impaired by a failing heart who navigates moral compromises while he desperately clutches onto his power. Will Bale clutch an Oscar statue tonight?
Willem Dafoe – At Eternity’s Gate
In At Eternity’s Gate, Willem Dafoe serves up a fresh take on the 19th-century master of painting Vincent van Gogh. Directed by Julian Schnabel, the film zeroes in on the artist’s final years in the South of France. Dafoe, now a four-time Academy Award nominee, learned to paint for the role and immersed himself in the life of van Gogh in order to awaken the inspiration needed to play such a colorful character. Dafoe has yet to take home an Oscar, though he was nominated as recent as last year for The Florida Project. Will his van Gogh gig become his magnum opus?
Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody
Not many actors can step into the enigma that is Queen’s Freddie Mercury, but Rami Malek did just that with incredible panache. After many false starts and a director swap mid-shoot, Bohemian Rhapsody‘s final product praises the legendary Mercury’s artistry and stamp on music, and that’s thanks to the anchor that is Malek. Many sequins, wigs, jumpsuits, and prosthetic teeth later, Rami transformed into the complex frontman, giving Queen fans a glimpse behind the curtain as to who Mercury was, what motivated him, and what his struggles were throughout his life. Will Malek be crowned champion tonight?
Viggo Mortensen – Green Book
In Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, Viggo Mortensen plays Tony Vallelonga, an Italian-American driver who easily could’ve come off as hokey in lesser hands. Under Mortensen’s watchful eye, the brash New Yorker with a penchant for fighting comes off as open and heartfelt as he comes to learn about and understand his employer, the refined pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), in 1962 society. A lapse in judgment involving the N-word at a Hollywood Q&A may have set him back even further, but it’s unlikely to be Mortensen’s year regardless, despite his sincere and pointed performance.
Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born
Bradley Cooper starred as Jackson Maine in a film he also wrote and directed, the fourth iteration of the classic tale A Star Is Born. His character is weary and vulnerable, struggling with an illness that quickly catches up to him regardless of his success or love for Lady Gaga’s Ally. Cooper plays Maine’s vulnerability with such strength that it’s nearly impossible for the audience to not feel empathetic for Jackson, a man who has clearly endured grief and sadness that have taken a strong toll on his wellbeing. Before his three nominations this year, Cooper has been nominated four times but hasn’t yet walked away with a prize yet.
Despite increasing support for both Green Book and A Star Is Born, indications all point to a toss-up between Bale and Malek. Malek has certainly campaigned harder, winning huge at the SAG and BAFTA awards, while both he and Bale won Golden Globes. Bale also won the Critics Choice Award. It’s doubtful that we’ll see anything resembling the Glenn Close-Lady Gaga tie at the Critics Choice Awards, so we’re going to have to place our bets on Malek this time around. His performance in Bohemian seems to be the behemoth to beat.