Oscars 2015 Category Breakdown: Best Supporting Actor
Every year before the Oscars I break down each of the 24 categories. I do this to familiarize everyone with the category, how it works, what its history is, how it usually turns out, and also as a precursor to my picks article, allowing me to get most of the heavy lifting out of the way beforehand.
How these work is — I go over each category’s history, give you all the previous winners and nominees, then list the current year’s nominees. And then I’ll go over how each of the guilds (if there is a corresponding guild) have went, and how that corresponds to the Oscars (some guilds mean a lot to how a category will play out. Others mean nothing). It’s basically everything you need to know in order to make an informed decision when you make your picks on Oscar night. And then I also rank the nominees at the end in terms of where I see them in terms of their likelihood to win.
Today is Best Supporting Actor, which is perhaps the most interesting category of the year, simply because of how crazy the precursors all were.
|Year||Best Supporting Actor Winners||Other Nominees|
|1936||Walter Brennan, Come and Get It||Mischa Auer, My Man GodfreyStuart Erwin, Pigskin Parade
Basil Rathbone, Romeo and Juliet
Akim Tamiroff, The General Died at Dawn
|1937||Joseph Schildkraut, The Life of Emile Zola||Ralph Bellamy, The Awful TruthThomas Mitchell, The Hurricane
H.B. Warner, Lost Horizon
Roland Young, Topper
|1938||Walter Brennan, Kentucky||John Garfield, Four DaughtersGene Lockhart, Algiers
Robert Morely, Marie Antoinette
Basil Rathbone, If I Were King
|1939||Thomas Mitchell, Stagecoach||Brian Aherne, JuarezHarry Carey, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Brian Donlevy, Beau Geste
Claude Rains, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
|1940||Walter Brennan, The Westerner||Albert Basserman, Foreign CorrespondentWilliam Gargan, They Knew What They Wanted
Jack Oakie, The Great Dictator
James Stephenson, The Letter
|1941||Donald Crisp, How Green Was My Valley||Walter Brennan, Sergeant YorkCharles Coburn, The Devil and Miss Jones
James Gleason, Here Comes Mr. Jordan
Sydney Greenstreet, The Maltese Falcon
|1942||Van Heflin, Johnny Eager||William Bendix, Wake IslandWalter Huston, Yankee Doodle Dandy
Frank Morgan, Tortilla Flat
Henry Travers, Mrs. Miniver
|1943||Charles Coburn, The More the Merrier||Charles Bickford, The Song of BernadetteJ. Carrol Naish, Sahara
Claude Rains, Casablanca
Akim Tamiroff, For Whom the Bell Tolls
|1944||Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way||Hume Cronyn, The Seventh CrossClaude Rains, Mr. Skeffington
Clifton Webb, Laura
Monty Woolley, Since You Went Away
|1945||James Dunn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn||Michael Chekhov, SpellboundJohn Dall, The Corn is Green
Robert Mitchum, The Story of G.I. Joe
J. Carrol Naish, A Medal for Benny
|1946||Harold Russell, The Best Years of Our Lives||Charles Coburn, The Green YearsWilliam Demarest, The Jolson Story
Claude Rains, Notorious
Clifton Webb, The Razor’s Edge
|1947||Edmund Gwenn, Miracle on 34th Street||Charles Bickford, The Farmer’s DaughterThomas Gomez, Ride the Pink Horse
Robert Ryan, Crossfire
Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death
|1948||Walter Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre||Charles Bickford, Johnny BelindaJosé Ferrer, Joan of Arc
Oskar Homolka, I Remember Mama
Cecil Kellaway, The Luck of the Irish
|1949||Dean Jagger, Twelve O’Clock High||John Ireland, All the King’s MenArthur Kennedy, Champion
Ralph Richardson, The Heiress
James Whitmore, Battleground
|1950||George Sanders, All About Eve||Jeff Chandler, Broken ArrowEdmund Gwenn, Mister 880
Sam Jaffe, The Asphalt Jungle
Erich von Stroheim, Sunset Boulevard
|1951||Karl Malden, A Streetcar Named Desire||Leo Genn, Quo VadisKevin McCarthy, Death of a Salesman
Peter Ustinov, Quo Vadis
Gig Young, Come Fill the Gap
|1952||Anthony Quinn, Viva Zapata!||Richard Burton, My Cousin RachelArthur Hunnicutt, The Big Sky
Victor McLaglen, The Quiet Man
Jack Palance, Sudden Fear
|1953||Frank Sinatra, From Here to Eternity||Eddie Albert, Roman HolidayBrandon de Wilde, Shane
Jack Palance, Shane
Robert Strauss, Stalag 17
|1954||Edmund O’Brien, The Barefoot Contessa||Lee J. Cobb, On the WaterfrontKarl Malden, On the Waterfront
Rod Steiger, On the Waterfront
Tom Tully, The Caine Mutiny
|1955||Jack Lemmon, Mister Roberts||Arthur Kennedy, TrialJoe Mantell, Marty
Sal Mineo, Rebel Without a Cause
Arthur O’Connell, Picnic
|1956||Anthony Quinn, Lust for Life||Don Murray, Bus StopAnthony Perkins, Friendly Persuasion
Mickey Rooney, The Bold and the Brave
Robert Stack, Written on the Wind
|1957||Red Buttons, Sayonara||Vittorio de Sica, A Farewell to ArmsSessue Hayakawa, The Bridge on the River Kwai
Arthur Kennedy, Peyton Place
Russ Tamblyn, Peyton Place
|1958||Burl Ives, The Big Country||Theodore Bikel, The Defiant OnesLee J. Cobb, The Brothers Karamozov
Arthur Kennedy, Some Came Running
Gig Young, Teacher’s Pet
|1959||Hugh Griffith, Ben-Hur||Arthur O’Connell, Anatomy of a MurderGeorge C. Scott, Anatomy of a Murder
Robert Vaughn, The Young Philadelphians
Ed Wynn, The Diary of Anne Frank
|1960||Peter Ustinov, Spartacus||Peter Falk, Murder, Inc.Jack Kruschen, The Apartment
Sal Mineo, Exodus
Chill Wills, The Alamo
|1961||George Chakiris, West Side Story||Montgomery Clift, Judgment at NurembergPeter Falk, Pocketful of Miracles
Jackie Gleason, The Hustler
George C. Scott, The Hustler
|1962||Ed Begley, Sweet Bird of Youth||Victor Buono, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?Telly Savalas, Birdman of Alcatraz
Omar Sharif, Lawrence of Arabia
Terence Stamp, Billy Budd
|1963||Melvyn Douglas, Hud||Nick Adams, Twilight of HorrorBobby Darin, Captain Newman, M.D.
Hugh Griffith, Tom Jones
John Huston, The Cardinal
|1964||Peter Ustinov, Topkapi||John Gielgud, BecketStanley Holloway, My Fair Lady
Edmond O’Brien, Seven Days in May
Lee Tracy, The Best Man
|1965||Martin Balsam, A Thousand Clowns||Ian Bannen, Flight of the PhoenixTom Courtenay, Doctor Zhivago
Michael Dunn, Ship of Fools
Frank Finlay, Othello
|1966||Walter Matthau, The Fortune Cookie||Mako, The Sand PebblesJames Mason, Georgy Girl
George Segal, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Robert Shaw, A Man for All Seasons
|1967||George Kennedy, Cool Hand Luke||John Cassavetes, The Dirty DozenGene Hackman, Bonnie and Clyde
Cecil Kellaway, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Michael J. Pollard, Bonnie and Clyde
|1968||Jack Albertson, The Subject Was Roses||Seymour Cassel, FacesDaniel Massey, Star!
Jack Wild, Oliver!
Gene Wilder, The Producers
|1969||Gig Young, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?||Rupert Crosse, The ReiversElliott Gould, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Jack Nicholson, Easy Rider
Anthony Quayle, Anne of the Thousand Days
|1970||John Mills, Ryan’s Daughter||Richard S. Castellano, Lovers and Other StrangersChief Dan George, Little Big Man
Gene Hackman, I Never Sang for My Father
John Marley, Love Story
|1971||Ben Johnson, The Last Picture Show||Jeff Bridges, The Last Picture ShowLeonard Frey, Fiddler on the Roof
Richard Jaeckel, Sometimes a Great Notion
Roy Scheider, The French Connection
|1972||Joel Grey, Cabaret||Eddie Albert, The Heartbreak KidJames Caan, The Godfather
Robert Duvall, The Godfather
Al Pacino, The Godfather
|1973||John Houseman, The Paper Chase||Vincent Gardenia, Bang the Drum SlowlyJack Gilford, Save the Tiger
Jason Miller, The Exorcist
Randy Quaid, The Last Detail
|1974||Robert De Niro, The Godfather Part II||Fred Astaire, The Towering InfernoJeff Bridges, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
Michael V. Gazzo, The Godfather Part II
Lee Strasberg, The Godfather Part II
|1975||George Burns, The Sunshine Boys||Brad Dourif, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestBurgess Meredith, The Day of the Locust
Chris Sarandon, Dog Day Afternoon
Jack Warden, Shampoo
|1976||Jason Robards, All the President’s Men||Ned Beatty, NetworkBurgess Meredith, Rocky
Laurence Olivier, Marathon Man
Burt Young, Rocky
|1977||Jason Robards, Julia||Mikhail Baryshnikov, The Turning PointPeter Firth, Equus
Alec Guinness, Star Wars
Maximilian Schell, Julia
|1978||Christopher Walken, The Deer Hunter||Bruce Dern, Coming HomeRichard Farnsworth, Comes a Horseman
John Hurt, Midnight Express
Jack Warden, Heaven Can Wait
|1979||Melvyn Douglas, Being There||Robert Duvall, Apocalypse NowJustin Henry, Kramer vs. Kramer
Frederic Forrest, The Rose
Mickey Rooney, The Black Stallion
|1980||Timothy Hutton, Ordinary People||Judd Hirsch, Ordinary PeopleMichael O’Keefe, The Great Santini
Joe Pesci, Raging Bull
Jason Robards, Melvin and Howard
|1981||John Gielgud, Arthur||James Coco, Only When I LaughIan Holm, Chariots of Fire
Jack Nicholson, Reds
Howard Rollincs, Ragtime
|1982||Lou Gossett Jr., An Officer and a Gentleman||Charles Durning, The Best Little Whorehouse in TexasJohn Lithgow, The World According to Garp
James Mason, The Verdict
Robert Preston, Victor Victoria
|1983||Jack Nicholson, Terms of Endearment||Charles Durning, To Be or Not to BeJohn Lithgow, Terms of Endearment
Sam Shepard, The Right Stuff
Rip Torn, Cross Creek
|1984||Haing S. Ngor, The Killing Fields||Adolph Ceasar, A Soldier’s StoryJohn Malkovich, Places in the Heart
Pat Morita, The Karate Kid
Ralph Richardson, Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes
|1985||Don Ameche, Cocoon||Klaus Maria Brandauer, Out of AfricaWilliam Hickey, Prizzi’s Honor
Robert Loggia, Jagged Edge
Eric Roberts, Runaway Train
|1986||Michael Caine, Hannah and Her Sisters||Tom Berenger, PlatoonWillem Dafoe, Platoon
Denholm Elliott, A Room with a View
Dennis Hopper, Hoosiers
|1987||Sean Connery, The Untouchables||Albert Brooks, Broadcast NewsMorgan Freeman, Street Smart
Vincent Gardenia, Moonstruck
Denzel Washington, Cry Freedom
|1988||Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda||Alec Guinness, Little DorritMartin Landau, Tucker: The Man and His Dream
River Phoenix, Running on Empty
Dean Stockwell, Married to the Mob
|1989||Denzel Washington, Glory||Danny Aiello, Do the Right ThingDan Aykroyd, Driving Miss Daisy
Marlon Brando, A Dry White Season
Martin Landau, Crimes and Misdemeanors
|1990||Joe Pesci, Goodfellas||Bruce Davidson, Longtime CompanionAndy Garcia, The Godfather Part III
Graham Greene, Dances with Wolves
Al Pacino, Dick Tracy
|1991||Jack Palance, City Slickers||Tommy Lee Jones, JFKHarvey Keitel, Bugsy
Ben Kingsley, Bugsy
Michael Lerner, Barton Fink
|1992||Gene Hackman, Unforgiven||Jaye Davidson, The Crying GameJack Nicholson, A Few Good Men
Al Pacino, Glengarry Glen Ross
David Paymer, Mr. Saturday Night
|1993||Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive||Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert GrapeRalph Fiennes, Schindler’s List
John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire
Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father
|1994||Martin Landau, Ed Wood||Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp FictionChazz Palminteri, Bullets Over Broadway
Paul Scofield, Quiz Show
Gary Sinise, Forrest Gump
|1995||Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects||James Cromwell, BabeEd Harris, Apollo 13
Brad Pitt, Twelve Monkeys
Tim Roth, Rob Roy
|1996||Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire||William H. Macy, FargoArmin Mueller-Stahl, Shine
Edward Norton, Primal Fear
James Woods, Ghosts of Mississippi
|1997||Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting||Robert Forster, Jackie BrownAnthony Hopkins, Amistad
Greg Kinnear, As Good as It Gets
Burt Reynolds, Boogie Nights
|1998||James Coburn, Affliction||Robert Duvall, A Civil ActionEd Harris, The Truman Show
Geoffrey Rush, Shakespeare in Love
Billy Bob Thornton, A Simple Plan
|1999||Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules||Tom Cruise, MagnoliaMichael Clarke Duncan, The Green Mile
Jude Law, The Talented Mr. Ripley
Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense
|2000||Benicio del Toro, Traffic||Jeff Bridges, The ContenderWillem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire
Albert Finney, Erin Brockovich
Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator
|2001||Jim Broadbent Iris||Ethan Hawke, Training DayBen Kingsley, Sexy Beast
Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Jon Voight, Ali
|2002||Chris Cooper, Adaptation.||Ed Harris, The HoursPaul Newman, Road to Perdition
John C. Reilly, Chicago
Christopher Walken, Catch Me if You Can
|2003||Tim Robbins, Mystic River||Alec Baldwin, The CoolerBenicio del Toro, 21 Grams
Djimon Hounsou, In America
Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai
|2004||Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby||Alan Alda, The AviatorThomas Haden Church, Sideways
Jamie Foxx, Collateral
Clive Owen, Closer
|2005||George Clooney, Syriana||Matt Dillon, CrashPaul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain
William Hurt, A History of Violence
|2006||Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine||Jackie Earle Haley, Little ChildrenDjimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
|2007||Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men||Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert FordPhilip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
|2008||Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight||Josh Brolin, MilkRobert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
|2009||Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds||Matt Damon, InvictusWoody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
|2010||Christian Bale, The Fighter||John Hawkes, Winter’s BoneJeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech
|2011||Christopher Plummer, Beginners||Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
|2012||Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained||Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
|2013||Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club||Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
|2014||J.K. Simmons, Whiplash||Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
A lot to talk about with this one. Specifically with what we have here.
First, let’s get the precursors out of the way. Specifically SAG.
SAG is actually not that accurate in this category above all others. Only 13/21 times have they matched.
- Tommy Lee Jones in 2012. Christoph Waltz won the Oscar.
- Eddie Murphy in 2006. Alan Arkin won the Oscar.
- Paul Giamatti in 2005. George Clooney won the Oscar.
- Christopher Walken in 2002. Chris Cooper won the Oscar.
- Ian McKellen in 2001. Jim Broadbent won the Oscar.
- Albert Finney in 2000. Benicio Del Toro won the Oscar. (He won Best Actor for SAG that year.)
- Robert Duvall in 1998. James Coburn won the Oscar.
- Ed Harris in 1995. Kevin Spacey won the Oscar.
So 13/20. If we’re taking off 2000. Still worse than Supporting Actress.
However, as you can see, the past decade, 8/10.
Oh, and I guess I should also mention, they’re going to get it wrong again this year, because Idris Elba won SAG and wasn’t nominated, which has never happened before in the history of SAG.
Christian Bale or Mark Rylance could have won, but didn’t. Which, to me, spells out the way this category is ultimately going to go.
Now, quickly, in the nominations stage — it was all over the place this year. A lot of people hit precursors who weren’t nominated.
Ultimately Rylance went all the way through and hit everything. So he was a lock.
The Big Short was going to get an acting nomination, and once Bale hit SAG, that was a done deal.
Spotlight also was going to get at least one, and Ruffalo made a lot of sense. They love him, too. Plus he got nominated for Foxcatcher last year. Not a total lock, but he wasn’t a surprise either.
Stallone, after that Golden Globe win, pretty much came on like a hurricane. I don’t think anyone saw him as being left off by a long shot.
Which leaves Tom Hardy, who made sense to me, owing to that piece of trivia I uncovered just before nominations morning, where Leo has taken a Supporting Actor with him every single time he’s been nominated for Best Actor (even Jonah Hill, who like Tom Hardy hit almost no precursors).
Almost completely different from SAG — no Michael Shannon, no Idris Elba, no Jacob Tremblay — but the year was really stacked all around. So we’re left with a great category even though it could have been totally different and still been great.
Now, as for the win — once nominations happened, and especially now after SAG, it started to look a lot like Supporting Actress last year, where as soon as the category became locked after nominations, there was no clear upset person to take out the frontrunner. And that’s what I’m seeing here.
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Brige of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
5. Christian Bale — They love Bale, but I can’t see them voting for him. They’d really have to love the film to give him another Oscar, and I just don’t see it happening. He had a chance to win SAG and they still didn’t vote for him. No precursors, and looking like he got on there because of that weird thing where a major contender has to have an acting nomination… I’m not liking his chances here.
4. Tom Hardy — Simply because Leo is going to win and Leo is campaigning for himself and the film. He’ll get some people to vote for Hardy too. I don’t think he has any sort of a chance at winning, and he may ultimately end up as #5, but for now, I think he goes fourth just because some people will want to reward him for the year he had and the last few years’ worth of performances he’s had. Not going to make much of a play here though, ultimately.
3. Mark Rylance — He is stellar in the film, and being nominated at every precursor award speaks volumes in a year like this. But after the nomination happened, didn’t it feel like he sort of fell to the middle of the pack? I thought he’d win SAG for sure with the absence of the next two nominees. And yet, no. SAG would have made it interesting. Now, it seems like the nomination is his reward and he stands no chance. He’s the kind of performance that will get votes, and maybe, if the voting is tight enough, he can sneak out a win. But voting would have to be real tight. I could see an upset happening here, so I won’t rule out anything happening. But to me, he’s looking like a solid third choice here.
2. Mark Ruffalo — It’s the film more so than the performance. He’s never won, which works in his favor. He’s respected, and he’s really solid in the film, which may get rewarded by people, especially if the film isn’t winning Best Picture. That aside, if anyone has a real chance to upset, I’m thinking it might be him. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe it’s Rylance, but at this point, with someone who seems so far ahead of everyone else, I’m thinking Ruffalo is the one who can garner the most votes to overtake him, even if it is him being the proxy for an entire ensemble.
1. Sylvester Stallone — Does anyone not think Stallone is the frontrunner? Sure, he only really has the Globe and wasn’t even nominated for BAFTA, but does it not seem like he’s taking that Globe win all the way to the stage? Now, he could lose and we could look back on this and wonder what the hell we were thinking, but Oscar loves a veteran, especially one going back to a character they made famous. Plus, without a clear competitor to take the majority of votes, how could he not end up with a win here? At the very least, he’s got to be considered the frontrunner.
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Tomorrow is Best Actress, which is pretty locked.