The race this year for Best Actor, in particular at the Academy Awards, is shaping up to be one for the ages. Without a traditional front-running contender so far, the individuals most in contention to take home the Oscar are an eclectic and interesting bunch. This has led to a lot of buzz that someone like Joaquin Phoenix could take home the gold for his “Joker” performance. However, are we sleeping on the potential for Adam Driver to just race through the season? With “Marriage Story” and “The Report” both in theaters and soon to stream on their respective platforms, now is a perfect time to look at his candidacy. One is a major awards player, with potential to win some gold, Driver’s performance included.
Obviously, Driver would be winning for Noah Baumbach‘s “Marriage Story,” but Scott Z. Burns‘ “The Report” can certainly help him. Hell, don’t forget that he’ll be in a major blockbuster right as the Academy is voting. J.J. Abrams is ending the “Star Wars” Saga as we know it with “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” and Driver is front and center. More so than any other contender in Best Actor, he’ll be on everyone’s minds, as well as in the public consciousness.
Driver’s turn as Charlie in “Marriage Story” has gotten praise across the board. Back at the Telluride Film Festival, Clayton had this rave to put forth:
Adam Driver emerges as the Marlon Brando of the picture, cementing his place in cinema as one of the greatest actors of our generation.
He co-stars in Baumbach’s flick with Alan Alda, Laura Dern, and Scarlett Johansson, each of whom is getting Oscar buzz as well. Alda is fighting it out for a Best Supporting Actor nod, while Dern is the current leader of the pack in Best Supporting Actress, and Johansson is in the thick of the Best Actress race. Not only could all four of them receive noms, Dern and Driver are in a position to win.
Now, who is he up against? Most pundits have Phoenix as his main competition for the win. Nomination-wise, the field is a crowded one, with a host of other gentlemen in the running. A cursory glance at the Actor race includes Christian Bale for “Ford v Ferrari,” Antonio Banderas for “Pain and Glory,” Robert De Niro for “The Irishman,” Leonardo DiCaprio for “Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood,” Taron Egerton for “Rocketman,” Eddie Murphy for “Dolemite Is My Name,” Jonathan Pryce for “The Two Popes,” and Adam Sandler for “Uncut Gems.” Driver seems to be the only lock right now, which helps give him early frontrunner status.
Without a wholly overdue veteran in the Best Actor group, a well respected, once nominated, and yet still relatively new figure on the scene like Driver could be in Oscar’s sweet spot. Netflix could dominate the category, and have been balancing out their players in De Niro, Murphy, and Pryce, but they know Driver is their pony to win. He’ll also have fans of “The Report” potentially showing their love for that turn by voting for him to win here as well. It’s certainly a recipe for success.
Looking at how Best Picture factors into things, Netflix also sees it as a strong contender. They may have “The Irishman” poised as a more likely winner in Picture, but they’re not sleeping on this one as a victor either. Especially if “Marriage Story” is in the top three or four for the category, that will only help Driver out. Likewise, if the movie manages another win or two, that won’t hurt either.
On AwardsCircuit’s November 19th prediction updates, “Marriage Story’ pulls in seven nominations, including a showing in Best Picture, winning gold for Dern in Best Supporting Actress and Baumbach in Best Original Screenplay. Clayton has Driver currently in second place in Best Actor, while Baumbach is a snub in Best Director. This certainly is a believable scenario, though it doesn’t take much to see Driver shoot back up to one, especially if the movie grabs an extra nomination or two.
All in all, Driver is clearly one of the frontrunners in Best Actor, if not “the” sole frontrunner right now. Actor can and will change as the precursors rage on, probably not coming fully into focus until the guilds begin to have their say. For now, anyone who has Driver winning the Oscar for “Marriage Story” is making a pretty competent bet. He’s no sure thing, but he’s going to come close to winning, whether he emerges victorious or not.