As explained in our previous Oscar 2014 predictions post, this year's Academy Award nominations in the Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress categories initially looked impossible to predict. For Best Supporting Actor, Jared Leto was the front-runner for his performance as a transsexual with AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club, and Michael Fassbender was another strong possibility for his evil planter in 12 Years a Slave — but who else? (See also: "Oscar Predictions 2014 Best Actress: Meryl Streep Possibly to Break Another Record," "Oscar Predictions 2014 Best Actor: Robert Redford Possible Near-Record," "Best Supporting Actress 2014 Oscar Predictions: Jennifer Lawrence and/or Scarlett Johansson to Make Oscar History?" and "Oscar Predictions 2014: Best Picture, Best Director.")
A couple of weeks ago, the SAG Award nominations helped to clarify things some, but, just as in the Best Supporting Actress category, there remains quite a bit of room for surprises and upsets. For instance, will the usually quite conservative Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Actors Branch members dare to watch Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, featuring a tattooed, gold-toothed James Franco — winner of the 2013 Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics' Best Supporting Actor Award? Don't bet on it. But then again, don't bet against it either. It's that iffy.
Note: Like our Best Actress Oscar 2014 predictions — but unlike our Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress predictions — our Oscar 2014 predictions in the Best Supporting Actor category are an exact match to the SAG Awards' shortlist. The last time both the SAG Awards and the Academy Awards shared the exact list of Best Supporting Actor contenders was three years ago (Christian Bale, John Hawkes, Geoffrey Rush, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeremy Renner). See below (lists in alphabetical order).
Oscar 2014 Predictions: Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi for Paul Greengrass' Captain Phillips; Daniel Brühl for Ron Howard's Rush; Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave; James Gandolfini for Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said; Jared Leto for Jean-Marc Vallée's Dallas Buyers Club.
Runners-up: Steve Coogan for Stephen Frears' Philomena; Bradley Cooper for David O. Russell's American Hustle; Will Forte for Alexander Payne's Nebraska; James Franco for Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers; Tom Hanks for John Lee Hancock's Saving Mr. Banks.
Long shots: George Clooney for Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity; Chris Cooper for John Wells' August: Osage County; Harrison Ford for Brian Helgeland's 42; Paul Giamatti for 12 Years a Slave; Jonah Hill for Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street; Matthew McConaughey for Jeff Nichols' Mud; Jeremy Renner for American Hustle.
Best Supporting Actor Oscar 2014: First Somali, third Spanish-born (and sixth German), and eighth posthumous nominees?
If our Oscar 2014 predictions for Best Supporting Actor are on target, all five actors will be first-time nominees.
- Bakhad Abdi will be the first Somali to be nominated for an Academy Award in the acting categories (or, likely, in any category). Abdi will also be one of the rare African-born actors to be nominated; previous acting nominees and/or winners include South African-born Welsh actress Glynis Johns (The Sundowners), Egyptian Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia), and South African Charlize Theron (Monster, North Country). (Note: Best Actress Oscar winner Anna Magnani — The Rose Tattoo — was reportedly born in Italy, not Egypt as some have claimed. Also, this year's likely Best Supporting Actress nominee, Kenyan performer Lupita Nyong'o, was actually born in Mexico.)
- If James Gandolfini is nominated, he'll become the eighth performer to receive a posthumous Oscar nomination, following Jeanne Eagels (The Letter, 1928-29; no official nominations that year, but Eagels was "considered" for the award); James Dean (East of Eden, 1955; Giant, 1956); Spencer Tracy (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, 1967); Peter Finch (Network, 1976); Ralph Richardson (Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, 1984); Massimo Troisi (The Postman / Il Postino, 1995); and Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight, 2008). Only Finch and Ledger won, the latter as Best Supporting Actor. Richardson was also nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category.
- If Daniel Brühl gets shortlisted, he'll become only the third Spanish-born performer to receive Oscar recognition, following Javier Bardem (Before Night Falls, 2000; No Country for Old Men, 2007; Biutiful, 2010) and Penélope Cruz (Volver, 2006; Vicky Cristina Barcelona, 2008; Nine, 2009). Now, though Spanish-born (and fluent in Spanish), Daniel Brühl was raised in Germany — his mother is Spanish, but his father was a Brazilian-born German television director. Thus, if nominated Brühl will also become only the sixth German actor shortlisted for an Academy Award, following Emil Jannings (first Best Actor winner, for The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command, 1927-28), Marlene Dietrich (Morocco, 1930-31), Luise Rainer (The Great Ziegfeld, 1936; The Good Earth, 1937), Albert Bassermann (Foreign Correspondent, 1940), and Armin Mueller-Stahl (Shine, 1996). (Note: Vienna-born two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz — for Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained — is half-German, and so is U.S.-born and -raised Sandra Bullock, Best Actress Oscar winner for John Lee Hancock's The Blind Side.)
- And if Jared Leto does get a nomination, he won't be the first gender-bending performer to do so. Previous such nominees include Jack Lemmon for Some Like It Hot (1959), Chris Sarandon for Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Julie Andrews for Victor Victoria (1982), John Lithgow for The World According to Garp (1982), Dustin Hoffman for Tootsie (1982), William Hurt for Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), Jaye Davidson for The Crying Game (1992), Gwyneth Paltrow for Shakespeare in Love (1998), Hilary Swank for Boys Don't Cry (1999), Felicity Huffman for Transamerica (2005), Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There (2007), and Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs (2011). Oscar winner Linda Hunt is a unique case: she actually played a man in Peter Weir's 1983 political drama The Year of Living Dangerously. And it's true that Marlene Dietrich sort of crosses the line here and there in Josef von Sternberg's 1930 romantic melodrama Morocco, but tux or no, "lesbian kiss" or no, no one could perceive Dietrich's character as anything but a woman.
Jared Leto Dallas Buyers Club photo: Focus Features.