(See also: "Oscar Predictions 2014: Best Picture, Best Director.") The 2014 Academy Awards' Best Actor field is overflowing with well-received performances by film veterans and super-veterans. No less than ten actors are found on our lists of nominees and immediate runners-up; that means our list of Best Actor "long shots" is all but meaningless, as, barring a miracle, there's no chance for any of those actors to be shortlisted for an Oscar this year. (See also: "Best Actress 2014 Oscar Predictions: Meryl Streep to Break Another Record?")
Note: Our list of likely Best Actor nominees matches four of the 2014 SAG Awards' five nominees in that category. Now, it's good to remember three things regarding the SAG Awards vs. the Academy Awards:
- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Actors Branch, about 1,100 members, tends to be more "elitist" (or "sophisticated") than the Screen Actors Guild membership, about 120,000 strong, approximately 2,100 of which select the SAG Awards' nominees. Just about anyone with three speaking roles to their credit and enough cash to pay SAG's membership fees can become a SAG member, whereas only those invited by the Academy, usually (though not always) after years of renowned film work, can become Academy members.
- The SAG Awards and the Academy Awards have different voting rules. The latter uses the preferential voting system, which allows a minority of enthusiastic voters to have their pick shortlisted for the Oscars.
- Timing and the availability of early screeners is crucial for a nomination in any category.
Below are our 2014 Oscar predictions in the Best Actor category. The predicted nominees, runners-up, and long shots are all in alphabetical order.
Bruce Dern for Alexander Payne's Nebraska; Chiwetel Ejiofor for Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave; Tom Hanks for Paul Greengrass' Captain Phillips; Matthew McConaughey for Jean-Marc Vallée's Dallas Buyers Club; Robert Redford for J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost.
Oscar 2014 Best Actor runners-up: Christian Bale for David O. Russell's American Hustle; Leonardo DiCaprio for Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street; Oscar Isaac for Joel and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis; Joaquin Phoenix for Spike Jonze's Her; Forest Whitaker for Lee Daniels' The Butler.
Long shots: Josh Brolin for Jason Reitman's Labor Day; Idris Elba for Justin Chadwick's Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom; Ethan Hawke for Before Midnight; Chris Hemsworth for Ron Howard's Rush; Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal for Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners; Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station; Mads Mikkelsen for Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt; Daniel Radcliffe for John Krokidas' Kill Your Darlings; Tahar Rahim for Asghar Farhadi's The Past / Le Passé; Mark Wahlberg for Lone Survivor.
Note: In our 2014 Oscar predictions, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks would have been "long shots" for, respectively, Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby and John Lee Hancock's Saving Mr. Banks. However, if either DiCaprio or Hanks manages to be nominated for the 2014 Best Actor Oscar, it'll be for, once again respectively, The Wolf of Wall Street and Captain Phillips. The Academy's Actors Branch doesn't allow double nominations in the acting categories.
Note Pt. 2: On our list of Oscar 2014 predictions, Robert Redford is the sole Best Actor nominee bypassed by the SAG Awards. In Redford's place, SAG voters picked Forest Whitaker.
Best Actor 2014 Academy Awards: Oscar newcomers and longtime veterans
If our 2014 Oscar Best Actor predictions are on target, two actors will be Oscar newcomers: Chiwetel Ejiofor (who failed to be nominated for Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things in 2000) and Matthew McConaughey (who failed to be nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category last year for Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike).
The other three Best Actor nominees would be making Oscar comebacks after a long absence:
- Tom Hanks would be up for his sixth Best Actor Academy Award, following Penny Marshall's Big (1988), Jonathan Demme's Philadelphia (1993), Robert Zemeckis' Forrest Gump (1994), Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (1998), and Zemeckis' Cast Away (2000). Hanks won for both Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, thus becoming only the fifth performer to win back-to-back Oscars, following Luise Rainer (The Great Ziegfeld, 1936; The Good Earth, 1937), Spencer Tracy (Captains Courageous, 1937; Boys Town, 1938), Katharine Hepburn (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, 1967; The Lion in Winter, 1968 — shared with Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl), and Best Supporting Actor winner Jason Robards (All the President's Men, 1976; Julia, 1977). (See also: "Best Supporting Actress 2014 Oscar Predictions: Jennifer Lawrence and/or Scarlett Johansson to Make Oscar History?")
- Bruce Dern would be receiving his first ever Best Actor nomination, but his second in the acting categories. Thirty-five years ago, Dern was shortlisted in the Best Supporting Actor category for playing Jane Fonda's Vietnam War veteran husband in Hal Ashby's Coming Home. He lost to Christopher Walken for 1978's other Vietnam War drama, Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter.
- And finally, Robert Redford, whose film career spans more than five decades, would be getting his second Best Actor Oscar nomination. Redford was first shortlisted 40 years ago, for George Roy Hill's eventual Best Picture winner The Sting (1973), co-starring Paul Newman and Robert Shaw. He lost to Jack Lemmon for Save the Tiger. Additionally, Robert Redford has taken home a Best Director Oscar for the 1980 family drama Ordinary People, and 14 years later was nominated in that same category for Quiz Show, losing out to Forrest Gump's Robert Zemeckis. Best Picture nominee Quiz Show also earned Redford a nomination as one of the film's producers, and he was handed an Honorary Oscar at the 2002 ceremony.
Robert Redford: Oscar near-record?
If Robert Redford does get nominated for the Best Actor 2014 Oscar, he'll be almost breaking two records: oldest Best Actor nominee and longest gap between acting nominations. The current oldest Best Actor Oscar nominee is Richard Farnsworth, who was 79 when nominated for David Lynch's The Straight Story (1999). Robert Redford and Bruce Dern are both 77; with Dern actually a couple of months older than Redford. So, 2014 may end up with two of the three oldest Best Actor nominees in Oscar history.
The record for longest gap between acting Oscar nominations belongs to Henry Fonda: 41 years, from John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (1940) to Mark Rydell's On Golden Pond (1981). Fonda, 76 at the time of his nomination for On Golden Pond, is currently the second oldest Best Actor nominee and the very oldest Best Actor Oscar winner ever.
Robert Redford All Is Lost photo: Daniel Daza / Lionsgate Pictures.