Awards Profile: Icon

Welcome to the 2015 Awards Profiles series.  For the next two months, every day (except for Saturday), we will bring you a run down of a future 2015 film that we see as a potential awards vehicle for next year’s Academy Awards.  This is all speculative since with just about all these films, we haven’t seen a frame yet.  Nonetheless, we venture on.  If you miss a film, then click on the tag “2015 Awards Profile.”

Director: Stephen Frears

Writer: John Hodge

Cast: Ben Foster, Lee Pace, Dustin Hoffman, Chris O’Dowd, Jesse Plemons

Synopsis: An Irish sports journalist becomes convinced that Lance Armstrong’s performances during the Tour de France victories are fuelled by banned substances. With this conviction, he starts hunting for evidence that will expose Armstrong.

Why It Might Succeed: Hot off the success of Philomena, Stephen Frears is back in the race with Lance Armstrong film Icon. It’s still kind of a developing story, with Armstrong making headlines every now and then, though that just makes Icon feel more timely. The film’s premise makes it sound like an all-out attack, which could counter-balance any animosity people would have for Armstrong coming in, but the film has the potential to be an insightful character study of a liar and fascinating social commentary on celebrity worship. Ben Foster has been on the fringe of Oscar contention for a while, delivering great supporting performances but never getting traction for any particular role.

This is the perfect opportunity to give a committed and layered performance. Plus he resembles Armstrong a lot too. Frears’ leads frequently nominated, Foster is the best bet. His screenplays are often nominated too. Written by John Hodge, Oscar nominated for Trainspotting, he could definitely bring an essential energy to it to match the frenetic portrayal of intense cycling. Also as I said before for The End of the Tour, the Academy like films lead by journalists, and that’s Frears’ forte. It has all the cards, just needs to play them right. It’s produced by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner who were just nominated for The Theory of Everything as well as Les Miserables. We know how they play their cards.

Why It Might Fail: Would the Academy care about Lance Armstrong? They may be reluctant to reward anything to do with him (ala how Alex Gibney’s excellent documentary The Armstrong Lie missed major attention), favouring clearer heroes. Will Icon be a Philomena and The Queen for Frears, or a Lay the Favorite and Tamara Drew? As respected as Frears is, he can easily fly way off the radar and not make a dent in awards. The film could be the Rush of the year with an apathetic response from the Academy. Perhaps Icon requires a stronger vision that Frears’ accessibility won’t provide. It will more likely than not be a relatively lightweight film. Time will tell. It’s a very competitive year, as usual, with some heavyweight films taking the forefront. It could be a great film but be squeezed out by default.

Awards Speculation: It’s unlikely to be a threat for any wins but its best shot is Ben Foster (with John Hodge‘s screenplay close behind). We know how Best Actor can be though, you don’t fall in by accident, unless you’re in a beloved foreign film for instance. It feels like a film that will either get a good handful of noms or nothing at all. We have The King’s Speech‘s Oscar nominated cinematographer Danny Cohen and Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom‘s Globe nominees composer Alex Heffes on board. A lot of nominees, but no winners, which could result in a big draw if they’re putting in career best work. I wouldn’t put money on it yet, but it’s something to bear in mind.

Oscar Potential:

Best Picture
Best Director – Stephen Frears
Best Actor – Ben Foster
Best Original Screenplay
Best Editing
Best Cinematography
Best Score