Six Spot: Which 2006 Supporting Actor Saw Their Oscar Hopes Get ‘Departed’

Welcome to the twenty-fourth entry in our Six Spot series.

If we’re being honest, the Supporting Actor category often is the snooziest of the categories. Even when there are fantastic winners (Christopher Plummer for “Beginners,” Javier Bardem for “No Country for Old Men), they often come from lineups with real head scratching nominees (Nick Nolte for “Warrior,” Philip Seymour Hoffman for “Charlie Wilson’s War”). Luckily, the 2006 category was comprised of some unique, odd choices that came from a really stacked season. This makes it a fascinating category to talk about in the context of the Six Spot series as we try and figure out which actor came in sixth place during nominations. First, let’s look at the five men who received nominations for Supporting Actor in 2006.

THE NOMINEES WERE:

    • Alan Arkin – “Little Miss Sunshine” – WINNER
    • Jackie Earle Haley – “Little Children”
    • Djimon Hounsou – “Blood Diamond”
    • Eddie Murphy – “Dreamgirls”
    • Mark Wahlberg – “The Departed”

OVERALL SUMMARY

Everybody’s favorite heroin addict Grandpa wasn’t always a sure thing at the Oscars. Before winning Best Supporting Actor, Alan Arkin had only won the BAFTA and Independent Spirit Awards. Eddie Murphy was long thought to be the frontrunner for the award. The legendary comedian collected trophies at the SAG, Golden Globe and Critics Choice Awards (all televised). The narrative seemed too good to be true. He was the bawdy comedian making a serious turn in a glitzy musical. It’s hard to say what derailed Murphy. Did the opening of “Norbit,” his Razzie award winning comedy, kill his chances? Was the “Dreamgirls” Best Picture snub a sign? The latter seems to be more true. “Little Miss Sunshine” also won the SAG ensemble prize, showing that the actors were throwing their support behind the film.

Still, the big winner of the night was “The Departed,” which won four Oscars including Best Picture. Supporting Actor was the only one that it lost. Mark Wahlberg was already a surprise nominee, as he beat out bigger marquee names for the nomination (more on that later). Though people loved the film, Wahlberg had not built up the career or narrative to be Oscar winner Marky Mark. Both “Little Children” and “Blood Diamond” saw awards heat in other categories. Jackie Earle Haley and Djimon Hounsou were both standouts in their films. Yet, they also benefited from riding the coattails of their lead acting nominees, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, respectively. It’s hard to say who was fourth and who was fifth. Likely, Hounsou came in fifth, as “Little Children” also received a writing nomination while “Blood Diamond” only picked up a couple tech nominations.

THE SIX SPOT CONTENDERS ARE:

  • Ben Affleck – “Hollywoodland”
    • Precursors – Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globes Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Adam Beach – “Flags of our Fathers”
    • Precursors – Critics Choice Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Sound Mixing, Sound Editing
  • Steve Carell – “Little Miss Sunshine”
    • Precursors – New York Film Critics Circle Runner Up
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin) (WINNER), Supporting Actress (Abigail Breslin),  Original Screenplay (WINNER)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio – “The Departed”
    • Precursors – SAG Awards, BAFTA Awards (in lead), Critics Choice Awards (in lead with “Blood Diamond”), Golden Globes Awards (in lead with “Blood Diamond”)
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Picture (WINNER), Director (Martin Scorsese) (WINNER), Adapted Screenplay (WINNER), Film Editing (WINNER), Supporting Actor (Mark Wahlberg)
  • James McAvoy – “The Last King of Scotland”
    • Precursors – BAFTA Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Actor (Forest Whitaker) (WINNER)
  • Jack Nicholson – “The Departed”
    • Precursors – Critics Choice Awards, BAFTA Awards, Golden Globes Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Picture (WINNER), Director (Martin Scorsese) (WINNER), Adapted Screenplay (WINNER), Film Editing (WINNER), Supporting Actor (Mark Wahlberg)
  • Leslie Phillips – “Venus”
    • Precursors – BAFTA Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Actor (Peter O’Toole)
  • Brad Pitt – “Babel”
    • Precursors – Golden Globe Awards,  
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Picture, Director (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), Supporting Actress (Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi), Original Score (WINNER)
  • Michael Sheen – “The Queen”
    • Precursors – Los Angeles Film Critics Association (WINNER), New York Film Critics Online (WINNER), BAFTA Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Picture, Director (Stephen Frears), Actress (Helen Mirren) (WINNER), Original Screenplay, Original Score, Costume Design

ACTING REPRESENTATIVES FROM OSCAR HOPEFULS

Sometimes it is hard for Supporting Actors to be the lone nomination from their films. It can happen when there’s a strong narrative around the performance (Sylvester Stallone – “Creed,” Willem Dafoe – “The Florida Project”) or the circumstances around the performance (Christopher Plummer – “All the Money in the World”). Still, there can be strange lone nominations, such as Robert Duvall (“The Judge”) or Michael Shannon (“Nocturnal Animals”). “Hollywoodland” was never going to be a major Oscar player. However, Ben Affleck had won the best reviews of his career playing George Reeves, the actor behind Superman who died a mysterious death. Both the Critics Choice and Golden Globes gave him nominations, as the narrative around his performance was very good. The later success of “Argo” proves that many groups have wanted to reward Affleck, but were waiting for their chance.

The Critics Choice also nominated Adam Beach for his role in “Flags of our Fathers,” one of Clint Eastwood’s two war dramas. Most thought, once 2006 began, that “Flags of our Fathers” would be his Oscar juggernaut. However, the film came and went with middling reviews and poor box office. His follow up, “Letters from Iwo Jima,” went on to become a Best Picture nominee and received four total nominations. Beach coasted to that Critics Choice nomination off of residual buzz from earlier in the season. Once support had shifted to “Letters from Iwo Jima,” Beach and the rest of “Flags of our Fathers” saw their Oscar hopes die.

BEST ACTOR SIDEKICKS

Jackie Earle Haley and Djimon Hounsou weren’t the only supporting players hoping to tag along with their leading star’s Oscar nominations. Many other lead actor contenders had supporting counterparts riding their coattails wishing for a trip to the Oscars. One of the biggest Oscar players this year was Forest Whitaker. He won every lead actor award imaginable for “The Last King of Scotland,” where he played Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Along for the ride was James McAvoy as Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, Amin’s doctor. McAvoy was a co-lead more than a supporting performance. Still, McAvoy went supporting in order to not interfere with Whitaker’s steamroll over the season. Unfortunately, his supporting campaign caught little heat. He only received a BAFTA nomination for his performance. He would have to wait another year with “Atonement” where he would be fully campaigned (although that didn’t earn him an Oscar nomination either).

Leslie Phillips also received an Oscar nomination off the strength of his co-star’s performance. “Venus” received positive reviews, even if few people saw it. Yet, recent Honorary Oscar winner Peter O’Toole was a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. He became Whitaker’s chief rival, even if the film did not pick up steam in other categories. Phillips had stature as a veteran actor, but his name did not have the universal cache that O’Toole’s had to earn him a career nomination.

BEST PICTURE COATTAILS

The Best Picture nominees of 2006 represent many different ensemble casts. The largest ensemble, in terms of number of actors, was likely “Babel,” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s film about the worldwide ripple effect of one gunshot. Both Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza received nominations for the film in Best Supporting Actress. Their famous co-star, Brad Pitt, was also thought to have a good shot at a nomination. However, only the Golden Globes (who famously love their movie stars) gave Pitt a precursor nomination. The buzz was mostly focused on Barraza and Kikuchi. Likewise, Steve Carell received some notices for his work in “Little Miss Sunshine,” since it was such an indie hit. Yet, Alan Arkin was always the one from the film the studio was going to push in this category.

While not necessarily an ensemble piece, Michael Sheen thought he could ride the Helen Mirren coronation to a Best Supporting Actor nomination. His work as Prime Minister Tony Blair was the most highly reviewed performance in the film after Mirren, who won Best Actress. Sheen received multiple critics prizes for his work, including wins from Los Angeles Film Critics Association and New York Online Film Critics. Once it came to the televised awards, voting bodies couldn’t see past Mirren’s work. Though the film overall had awards traction, Sheen found himself snubbed.

The most perplexing campaign of the season belonged to “The Departed.” Leonardo DiCaprio was hoping to earn two nominations this year – lead for “Blood Diamond” and supporting for “The Departed.” DiCaprio was a clear co-lead in “The Departed,” shared with Matt Damon. Some groups, such as SAG, nominated DiCaprio in supporting. Many more recognized the category fraud and put him in lead, such as BAFTA, Golden Globes and Critics Choice. Confusion caused DiCaprio to receive a lead nomination for “Blood Diamond” and nothing for “The Departed.” The category was also crowded because three time Oscar winner Jack Nicholson was hoping for a nomination. Jack received nominations from Critics Choice, Golden Globes and BAFTA. Votes for the veteran seemed to be split between DiCaprio and eventual nominee Mark Wahlberg. Had “The Departed” focused on getting just Nicholson and Wahlberg in to this category, they might have pulled it off.

THE SIX SPOT FOR 2006 BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR WAS:

JACK NICHOLSON – “THE DEPARTED”

Who do you think came in 6th place in the 2006 Best Supporting Actor race? Share with us in the comments below.

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