The Oscar Race has been in full swing ever since Johnny Depp’s Whitey Bulger ensnared audiences earlier this fall. It’s going to be an interesting year, as 2015 looks to be filled with some truly great films, both big and noisy, such as the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road, and smaller, more personal affairs, such as Sicario and 99 Homes. However, some actors and actresses may have already signed on to their next role that could net them another statuette. Here are five upcoming roles that already look to be a solid awards season vehicle for the following actors.
Right now, this one is for the dudes, but stay tuned for the actresses edition!
Honorable Mention: Ryan Gosling – La La Land
When La La Land comes out, or around the time it begins to make its rounds on the film festival circuit, it could go one of two ways. It could be great, and eventually prove that director Damian Chazelle is here to stay as an industry leading auteur. It’s said to be a passion project for the Whiplash director and has ballooned to some extent, as he replaced Miles Teller with Ryan Gosling, a much more well-known actor. Gosling certainly has the chops to play a character from the intricate world of Chazelle, and could possibly deliver an Oscar-worthy performance in the ode to 1950s Hollywood.
However, while Gosling is no doubt a great actor, it may be outside forces out of his own control that prevent him from earning another Oscar nomination. Firstly, it is Chazelle’s 3rd major motion picture and a follow-up to a beloved film, meaning it will be scrutinized heavily. People want to know if this is someone who is worth investing in their time, money, and passion. If it stumbles and fails to live up to expectations, the awards circuit could ignore the entire production altogether. Lastly, Gosling is almost guaranteed to deliver, but could he snag an Oscar in a film with a mid-summer release? The summer of 2016 looks to include Captain America: Civil War, Angry Birds: The Movie, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, The B.F.G, and Ghostbusters, to name a few. Will he be overshadowed during a crowded, bombastic summer?
Number Five: Chris Pratt – Passengers
Let’s get some of the more obvious aspects of this film out of the way before we look at how Pratt could snag a Best Actor nomination. It’s going to release during a winter where it could be easily overshadowed by a possible release of Snowden, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, among others. And while it does have Jennifer Lawrence in the female lead role opposite Pratt, it may be more of an exercise in bringing together two of America’s sweethearts, with a critically acclaimed director to confidently guide the project so everyone makes some money.
However, when it was announced that Pratt and Lawrence would team up for the sci-fi romantic film, there were numerous mentions about how the script for Passengers is well liked on The Black List. Films such as Moneyball, Whiplash, and Wolf of Wall Street, all three that are scripts for very critically and commercially successful films, were well liked on the very same website. Pratt’s previous work proves that he knows how to act off well-written scripts, as evident in Her, Guardians of the Galaxy, Moneyball, and numerous episodes of Parks & Recreation. Couple this with the fact he is one of the most liked celebrities in Hollywood, and the film is wholly original with an all-star cast, and Passengers may finally net Pratt an Academy Award nomination.
Number Four: Michael Fassbender – The Virginian
As of right now, Fassbender hasn’t been cast in The Virginian, a film that is conceived to take a very original take on George Washington. He’s up against Henry Cavill and Charlie Hunnam for the role, but Fassbender knows how to capture the true notions of men who have the potential to lead and go on to commit great deeds. It could prove to be a fantastic follow-up to Steve Jobs for Fassbender, as the Academy loves it when committed actors take on the lives of great American historical figures.
While The Virginian may have a great set up for a look at the first President of the United States, little else is known about the film as of right now. Supporting players and a crew haven’t been assembled. Fassbender on his own is a phenomenal actor, but if the script is as complex as it is rumored to be, this may be a production of monumental difficulties. However, audiences and critics love films about the American Revolution, so The Virginian looks to be in safe hands.
Number Three: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Devil in the White City
Let’s face it: Any role Leonardo DiCaprio is attached to from here on out should be thought of as a potential Oscar contender. He brings a believable amount of emotion, mixed with an admirable intensity, to his leading man roles. While some may think of his take on Billie Milligan as more of the Oscar bait the Academy goes for these days, I’m more interested in his take on Eric Larson’s The Devil in the White City, as he will be teaming up with Martin Scorsese once again and Billy Ray, a screenwriter best known for his work on the first Hunger Games and Captain Phillips.
However, the Academy doesn’t often nominate the best performances of the year, and DiCaprio is perhaps the most well-known victim of such proceedings. But a more prominent factor in The Devil in the White City is if DiCaprio will even be in the film when it commences shooting. He was supposed to be in Steve Jobs but backed out of that. And if he is adamant Scorsese directs the feature, or if he is already signed on, then it may be a few years until it even hits pre-production, given that the famed director has a Mike Tyson biopic, Silence, The Irishman, and possibly his Frank Sinatra film all on the way. Such a busy schedule could mean DiCaprio may lose interest in the role in several years time.
Number Two: Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Snowden
Snowden was slated for release this year, but thankfully Oliver Stone decided to delay the release of the biopic, which should give it more attention and room to breathe. Stone is a great historian, and Snowden is a challenging topic; can someone be a hero to his country if he leaks such classified information, during an age when said type of information is gold? Gordon-Levitt is an actor who can, reliably, sink his teeth in a complex role. He respects the source material, and should be primed to deliver a performance that gives him a nomination.
But will it be any good? The film was moved from its December 25th, 2015 slot to a May 13th, 2016 release date. Usually, as in the case of films such as Foxcatcher, when such a high profile film is delayed, it is usually delayed to the winter/awards season time again, so it can earn some nominations. It’s going to be released in May, right around Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse, two high-profile blockbusters that will surely suck up all the attention. The subject material could also work against the film, given that Snowden seemingly came and went in 2013, with little in the sense of public discourse. Does Stone have a compelling narrative that can turn heads and draw attention onto itself, during a loud summer?
Number One: Matt Damon – Downsizing
Alexander Payne’s recent two films, The Descendants and Nebraska, received critical acclaim all across the board. The Descendants featured a simple premise, with layers to be peeled back that really showed the depth of the film. In particular, he writes great parts for his lead actors. Matt Damon will be coming off of The Martian, where he has received near universal critical acclaim for his take on Mark Watney, reminding audiences and critics alike how great a film can be when you let Damon stretch his acting chops. While I think he has a fair shot at being nominated for The Martian, I think Payne’s Downsizing, a film about a Damon’s character realizing how much better his life would be if he shrinks himself, will help Damon nab the much eluded Best Actor statuette.
As with the aforementioned entries, I’m trying to think of how Damon could not earn an Academy Award nomination. It’s more of a waiting game at this point. Payne is a rare auteur who can connect to casual audiences. He explores common themes of parenthood and identity that pushes his actors and actresses outside of the box. While this does not really translate to an Academy Award nomination, Payne’s leading actors have been well lauded during the awards season. Damon’s fate is surely going to be similar.