Most Known For: “The Drop,” “Rust and Bone,” “Bullhead”
Snubbed For: “Rust and Bone”
When we talk about foreign actors/actresses’ success at the Oscars it has to come with a qualifier. Obviously the Academy loves Brits who come over and charms us all with their class, but they’re not overcoming a language barrier. Foreign, in Oscar terms, someone who does not speak English, and they are a bit stiffer on that.
Marion Cotillard, Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem are some that have found themselves in the Academies good graces, but only Cotillard and Loren have won Oscars for a performance entirely in a foreign language (though Cruz’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” win features a good chunk of Spanish). That reluctance maybe one reason why Belgian Matthias Schoenaerts has yet to come close to an Oscar nomination.
With his first credit going back all the way to 1992, Schoenaerts has been an active actor since the turn of the century in Europe. It wasn’t until 2011 that he would have his first real success stateside, when he starred in the Best Foreign Language Film nominee “Bullhead.” The film made names of both Schoenaerts and writer/director Michael Roskam in film circles but, unfortunately, like most foreign films it had little play outside those circles.
A year after “Bullhead” Schoenaerts would not only star in his biggest film, but also his best role to date. Starring opposite Marion Cotillard in “Rust and Bone” Schoenaerts is incredible as a boxer struggling to learn how to be a single father while forming a bond with a handicapped whale trainer (Cotillard). The two are magnetic together even with subtitles. Cotillard was considered a major snub when she was left out of the Best Actress nominees for the film, but there were few mentions for Schoenaerts snub. Part of that was it was a competitive year – as it always seems to be – for Best Actor, but even so, the lack of recognition for one half of a dynamic performance is ridiculous. Omar Sy generated some dark horse buzz for “The Intouchables,” where was that for Schoenaerts?
In Europe, apparently. Despite receiving no love from the main American film awards, Schoenaerts performances in “Bullhead” and “Rust and Bone” racked up a nice group of trophies from European film festivals and award bodies, including a César Award for “Rust and Bone” for Most Promising Actor. The only trophy the states would give him for either film was a Best Actor win at the AFI Film Festival.
Oscar voters may not have had Schoenaerts on their Oscar ballots, but Hollywood certainly had its eyes on him. Last year saw Schoenaerts star in “The Drop” alongside Tom Hardy and the late James Gandolfini. It was a more formal introduction to American audiences. He has a number of upcoming films in English that will hopefully build his stock up, including Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl” and an HBO mini-series on the Lewis and Clark expedition, with him as the latter explorer. He also has a French film opposite Diane Kruger in post-production, according to IMDB.
Matthias Schoenaerts is the next big foreign star, and hopefully one day soon he can join the likes of Bardem, Cotillard and Cruz as Oscar nominees, for an English or a foreign language film. Heck, he probably has the talent to snag one for both like the other three.
Schoenaerts will next be seen in “Far From the Madding Crowd” from Fox Searchlight Pictures on May 1. He also has “A Little Chaos,” “Suite Francaise,” “A Bigger Splash” and “The Danish Girl” in 2015.