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Six Circuit: Which 2016 Best Actor Contender Saw Their Oscar Chances Fall ‘by the Sea’?

manchester by the sea 1 casey affleck lucas hedges still h 2016

Welcome to the thirty-fourth entry in our Six Circuit series.

This week takes us back to the 2016 Best Actor race. This Oscar field came under criticism for Casey Affleck‘s win amidst a serious sexual harassment allegation. The following October, the takedown of Harvey Weinstein would mark the formal beginning of the #MeToo movement. With some time and distance, this race seems like an interesting one to re-examine. Who else was waiting in the wings and what alternatives were available? First, let’s take a look at the five nominated men.


  • Casey Affleck — Manchester by the Sea {“Lee Chandler”} (WINNER)
  • Andrew Garfield — Hacksaw Ridge {“Desmond Doss”}
  • Ryan Gosling — La La Land {“Sebastian”}
  • Viggo Mortensen — Captain Fantastic {“Ben”}
  • Denzel Washington — Fences {“Troy Maxson”}


SC AffleckSome lineups have very little movement. The 2016 Best Actor category at the Oscars mirrored the SAG Best Actor in terms of nominees. Meanwhile, the two differed in terms of winners. The SAG Awards went with Denzel Washington, who directed himself in an adaptation of “Fences,” a play that won him a Tony for acting years prior. The film adaptation was well-received, made a healthy sum of money over the Christmas holiday and won Viola Davis an Oscar in Supporting Actress. Yet, Casey Affleck pulled out a win, despite sexual harassment allegations, due to the high level of support for “Manchester by the Sea.” Both Affleck and Washington were neck and neck throughout the entire season, which kept the race exciting.

Golden Globe winner Ryan Gosling was the third place nominee who never had much of a shot of winning. “La La Land” was expected to be a juggernaut, but all the acting support was going to his co-star, Emma Stone, who won in Best Actress. Still, it was all but assured he would be nominated for the film, adding to the film’s record fourteen nominations.

Fourth and fifth place were between Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”) and Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”). Garfield had quite a year in 2016 (“Silence” earned him strong reviews as well). “Hacksaw Ridge” was a Best Picture nominee and multiple award winner. Yet, the Mel Gibson director film received a fair bit of criticism, as did Garfield’s accent heavy performance. Mortensen had a tougher road to climb, as “Captain Fantastic” was a small summer indie. However, actors rallied around the film, giving Mortensen a SAG nomination and the film a SAG Ensemble nomination. Which actor could have defeated Garfield or Mortensen? Let’s take a look.


  • Adam Driver – “Paterson”
    • Precursors – Los Angeles Film Critics Association (WINNER)
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Joel Edgerton – “Loving”
    • Precursors – Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globe Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Actress (Ruth Negga)
  • Colin Farrell – “The Lobster”
    • Precursors – Golden Globe Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Original Screenplay
  • Hugh Grant – “Florence Foster Jenkins”
    • Precursors – Golden Globe Awards, SAG Awards (as supporting), BAFTA Awards (as supporting)
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Actress (Meryl Streep), Costume Design
  • Jake Gyllenhaal – “Nocturnal Animals”
    • Precursors – BAFTA Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Supporting Actor (Michael Shannon)
  • Tom Hanks – “Sully”
    • Precursors – Critics Choice Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Sound Editing
  • Jonah Hill – “War Dogs”
    • Precursors – Golden Globe Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Chris Pine – “Hell or High Water”
    • Precursors – None
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Jeff Bridges), Original Screenplay, Editing
  • Ryan Reynolds – “Deadpool”
    • Precursors – Golden Globe Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None


MV5BMTk0NDY2ODYzNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjk2Mzc5OTE@. V1 SY1000 CR0014971000 ALWith such a long precursor season, there are bound to be lots of contenders who only receive one major precursor notice. Adam Driver has always been an exciting actor, but it took a little time before Oscar fully warmed up to him. The “Girls” actor won a Los Angeles Film Critics Association prize for his role in “Paterson,” a small film that casts Driver as a poetry spewing bus driver. However, the film was too small to make a dent in the larger precursor and Oscar conversation. Still, this likely helped Driver a few years later when he earned his first Oscar nomination for “Blackkklansman.”

The Golden Globes usually brings up a lot of lone precursor nominees because they have ten slots for lead actors and actresses. This year was no exception. Colin Farrell may have stood a shot, since “The Lobster” earned an Original Screenplay nomination. Yet, it would take a few more years until a Yorgos Lanthimos film was a major Oscar contender.

For a moment, “Deadpool” seemed like it might become the first superhero Best Picture nomination. In the end, the movie received zero nomination. Still, some thought Ryan Reynolds could be a dark horse thanks to his Golden Globe nomination. Rounding out the field was Jonah Hill from “War Dogs,”Todd Phillips war comedy that was far from the awards conversation.


hughgrant“Loving” had a lengthy Oscar journey. Jeff Nichols’ film was perceived as an early frontrunner when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. As more contenders gained steam, the movie kept dropping out of predictions, until many thought it would receive zero Oscar nominations. Stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga both received Critics Choice and Golden Globes nominations. At the Oscars, only Negga’s name was called among the nominees. Had the film retained its awards heat longer, could Edgerton have made it into the Oscars?

Hugh Grant could have very easily been nominated for “Florence Foster Jenkins” had category fraud not ripped apart his campaign. His role as St. Claire Bayfield, the companion and manager for Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep), was the beating heart of the film. The actor had never been nominated for an Oscar, and had a pretty compelling overdue narrative. Unfortunately, no one could decide if he were a lead or supporting actor. The Golden Globes went lead, while SAG and BAFTA went supporting. Functionally, Grant was the co-lead of the film (and better than Streep, for what it’s worth). Yet, the campaign was too indecisive, costing Grant a nomination.

Surprise acting nominations can often come from Best Picture nominees, since large swaths of the Academy will have seen the movie. Four of the five nominees came from Best Picture nominees this year. The one other lead actor that could have come from a Best Picture nomination would have been Chris Pine for “Hell or High Water.” The movie did well, with four major nominations (Picture, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Editing). Though Pine was a strong lead, he had the least amount of buzz in the cast. Jeff Bridges (Supporting Actor nominee) and Ben Foster were the primary recipients of precursor awards. If Foster didn’t also make it into Supporting Actor, it’s unlikely Pine was close to a Best Actor nomination.


tomhanks sullyWhen will Tom Hanks get his sixth Oscar nomination? The two-time Academy Award winner has not been nominated since “Cast Away” in 2000, despite many buzzed-about performances. The most shocking sunb was likely in 2013, when “Captain Phillips” earned Picture, Supporting Actor and many other nominations. Tom Hanks, however, was snubbed in Lead Actor. “Bridge of Spies,” “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Catch Me If You Can” and “Road to Perdition” all managed Oscar nominations (some in Best Picture), while Hanks remained snubbed. Though 2016’s “Sully” was a sizable September hit, the Oscar buzz faded fast on the Clint Eastwood directed film. Hanks received some notices. Yet, if he couldn’t get nominated for stronger movies, he was likely going to be snubbed again for “Sully.”

When Jake Gyllenhaal received his first Oscar nomination in 2005 for “Brokeback Mountain,” many thought he would be back relatively quickly. Movies like “Zodiac,” “Jarhead,” “Brothers,” “Love & Other Drugs,” “End of Watch” and “Prisoners” all head varying levels of Oscar buzz at one point or another. However, his performance in “Nightcrawler in 2014 received tons of precursor attention and acclaim. He ultimately missed out on a lead actor nomination, even though the film received an Original Screenplay nomination. “Nocturnal Animals was loved and hated in equal measures in 2016. Those who loved it, like the BAFTAs, nominated it everywhere, including Best Actor for Gyllenhaal. Of the cast, Gyllenhaal was least likely to be nominated. Had the movie been a major player, he could have been swept up. Yet, it only showed up in Supporting Actor for Michael Shannon.




Correction: An earlier version of this article claimed “Casey Affleck pulled out a win, despite sexual assault allegations.” Affleck was not sued for sexual assault. There were contract disputes that include allegations of sexual harassment, not assault. The civil suits in relation to the film “I’m Still Here” were settled to the satisfaction of all parties and dismissed in 2010.

Who do you think came in 6th place in the 2016 Best Actor race? Share with us in the comments below.


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Written by Christopher James

Christopher James has been an Oscar obsessive ever since watching his first ceremony at age 5 when "Titanic" won Best Picture. He is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with degrees in Screenwriting for Film and Television and Marketing. Christopher currently works in media strategy and planning at Liquid Advertising, based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can find Christopher running on the sunny beach, brunching at trendy restaurants or mostly just sitting in a dark room watching movies and TV in sweatpants. Follow me on Twitter @cwj92movieman


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