Six Spot: With ‘Titanic’ Sweeping the Oscars, Who Was Next In Line for Best Actor 1997?

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Welcome back for the fourth installment in our Six Spot series!

Jack Nicholson made his way to his third career win in 1997. Much like in 1975, he also took his co-star along for the ride, with Helen Hunt also winning Best Actress for “As Good As It Gets.” Despite the veteran win, 1997 was notable for significant roles from young talent, many of whom did not make it into the race. This ultra-competitive field left many strong contenders snubbed. Before we look for who was the dreaded number six of the year, let’s see who made the cut.

The Nominees Were:

  • Matt Damon – “Good Will Hunting”
  • Robert Duvall – “The Apostle”
  • Peter Fonda – “Ulee’s Gold”
  • Dustin Hoffman – “Wag the Dog”
  • Jack Nicholson – “As Good As It Gets” – WINNER

Overall Summary:

Jack Nicholson had all the major ingredients for a win. He won the trifecta: Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and SAG. On top of that, he was a movie star in “As Good As It Gets,” a commercial hit and Best Picture nominee. The rest of the category mirrored the SAG five. However, a few other things lined up this year and each nominee had a unique path to a nomination. Both Robert Duvall and Peter Fonda rode waves of critical support to be lone nominees for their films. Matt Damon rode the success of his Best Picture-nominated film “Good Will Hunting” to a win. Finally, Dustin Hoffman rode his status as a legend to make his way through the Oscar season for “Wag the Dog,” Barry Levinson’s comedy.

The Six Spot Contenders Are:

  • Robert Carlyle – “The Full Monty” (BAFTA)
  • Billy Connolly – “Mrs. Brown” (BAFTA, SAG in Supporting)
  • Jim Carrey – “Liar Liar” (Golden Globes)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis – “The Boxer” (Golden Globes)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio – “Titanic” (Golden Globes)
  • Christopher Guest – “Waiting for Guffman” (Indie Spirits)
  • Philip Baker Hall – “Hard Eight” (Indie Spirits)
  • Djimon Hounsou – “Amistad” (Golden Globes)
  • Samuel L. Jackson – “Jackie Brown” (Golden Globes)
  • Kevin Kline – “In & Out” (Golden Globes)
  • Kevin Spacey – “L.A. Confidential” (BAFTA)
  • John Turturro – “Box of Moon Light” (Indie Spirits)
  • Ray Winstone – “Nil by Mouth” (BAFTA)

Independent Spirit Long-Shots

The Oscar five were the only people to show up at more than one precursor. That’s how spread out the season was. The Independent Spirit Awards often aren’t direct Oscar corollaries. However, in years with many potential spoiler candidates, a surprise can find its way in. Both Duvall and Fonda made the Oscar lineup, which shows they looked to the legends in indies to fill up the field. Still, the rest of the Indie Spirit lineup shows inspired choices.

Christopher Guest has created an improv genre all his own with his films. However, his role as small-town Corky St. Claire in “Waiting for Guffman” ranks among his best. This was a smart choice to honor, but one Oscar was never going to repeat. Speaking of forwarding thinking, the Indie Spirits also nominated legendary character actor Philip Baker Hall. Hall starred in a small movie called “Hard Eight” which started the career of auteur Paul Thomas Anderson (who also released “Boogie Nights” this year). John Turturro has always been an underrated actor. Yet, even now people don’t talk about his role in “Box of Moon Light” as a neurotic engineer who gets a new lease on life.

BAFTA Darlings

This year, BAFTA saw zero overlaps with Oscar. Would any of their four nominees have made the Oscar lineup if the Brits had coalesced around one candidate? The first one we can count out is Ray Winstone, whose film “Nil by Mouth” received very little attention. The other three nominees all starred in movies that received some Academy attention. Billy Connelly starred in “Mrs. Brown,” which saw Judi Dench make it into the Best Actress race. Connelly also showed up at the SAG Awards, albeit in the Supporting category. This category confusion seems to have stunted any chance for Connelly to make it in.

Both Kevin Spacey and BAFTA Winner Robert Carlyle were stars of Best Picture nominated films, “L.A. Confidential” and “The Full Monty” respectively. While Spacey was already an Oscar winner at this point, he was unable to show up at any other American award shows. Meanwhile, Carlyle was able to prevail at BAFTA and the film was a surprise Best Picture nominee. The passionate groundswell for the film could have propelled him into the race. One just has to look at Massimo Troisi (“Il Postino”), Geoffrey Rush (“Shine”) and Daniel Day-Lewis (“In the Name of the Father”) to see actors carried to nominations on the strength of their film sneaking into Best Picture.

Golden Globe Competitors

With 10 lead actor nominees across Comedy/Musical and Drama, the Golden Globes will usually give a good idea of the also-rans in any given year. The Comedy/Musical nominees usually provide some populist oddballs, and this year is no exception. Jim Carrey has been majorly snubbed by Oscar before, but few would say missing for “Liar Liar” was egregious. The other two nominees were from movies that got Oscar acting nominations elsewhere. Samuel L. Jackson (“Jackie Brown”) and Kevin Kline (“In & Out”) both received Golden Globe nominations. However, with both of their movies only receiving lone supporting nominations, the support for them was not widespread enough to get them in.

The drama side possesses more traditional Oscar contenders. Former winner Daniel Day-Lewis was nominated for the titular role in “The Boxer,” which received no other traction in any other category. Speaking of films that only received a supporting nomination, “Amistad” lead Djimon Hounsou showed up in this lineup. The last, and most high profile nominee was undoubtedly Leonardo DiCaprio for “Titanic.” It can’t be understated how massive a hit “Titanic” was both for Oscars and for the public. DiCaprio was quickly catapulted to the A-list. However, one wonders if the Oscars only wanted one young actor in their lead actor lineup. In the race between Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio, the Oscars went with Damon.

The Six Spot For 1997 Best Actor Was:

Robert Carlyle – “The Full Monty”

Agree or Disagree? Let us know who you think was the Six Spot for the 1997 Best Actor race in the comments below.

Check out our Oscar predictions at the Circuit Hub for this year’s race and see who we have predicted to fall in sixth place.