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Six Spot: Which 2010 Best Actor Contender Didn’t Stand a Chance Against ‘King’s Speech’?

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

The first Best Actor race of the ’10s might have been one of the easiest to call. Colin Firth won Best Actor for “The King’s Speech,” a movie that checks most Oscar boxes. The Best Picture winner was a British (check) crowd-pleasing period piece (check) about an underdog (check) who rises to power (check) by delivering a speech (check) during wartime (check). While there may have been doubts if the film could win Best Picture, there were few doubts that Colin Firth would win Best Actor. What makes this Best Picture-heavy lineup interesting is the foreign language contender who pulled off a surprise nomination.


    • Javier Bardem – “Biutiful”
    • Jeff Bridges – “True Grit”
    • Jesse Eisenberg – “The Social Network”
    • Colin Firth – “The King’s Speech” – WINNER
    • James Franco – “127 Hours”


Colin Firth’s path to victory seems as assured as King George VI’s place on the throne. Even before “The King’s Speech” became the Best Picture frontrunner, Firth was always out ahead for the win. Once the televised awards started airing, Firth made a clean sweep of them. Firth’s case was also helped by his performance the previous year in “A Single Man,” which earned him his first nomination, but not a win. He was on a perfect trajectory for an Oscar win.

While “The King’s Speech” won Best Picture, “The Social Network” was the early frontrunner and critical favorite. This trickled down into some key critics wins for Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Mark Zuckerberg. However, this first nomination was merely welcoming Eisenberg into the club. Also being welcomed into the club was James Franco for “127 Hours,” where he plays a man trapped underneath a boulder who must lose his arm for survival. The film was a big Oscar hit and many praised Franco’s commitment to the role. Yet, this nomination was a first step in their investment with the actor (which promptly ended after his hosting gig this year). 

We really should have seen the Jeff Bridges nomination coming. “True Grit” was a massive box office hit and earned ten Oscar nominations. His role as Rooster Cogburn earned John Wayne his one and only Oscar win. This was Bridges’ Oscar afterglow following his win for “Crazy Heart” the previous year. The biggest surprise was Javier Bardem, who starred in “Biutiful” by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. While the film was a big player in the Foreign Film race, Bardem had only received BAFTA and Cannes precursors. Some of his famous friends, like Julia Roberts, campaigned hard for his performance and it ultimately worked. But who did he usurp?


  • Johnny Depp – “Alice in Wonderland”
    • Precursors – Golden Globes Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Art Direction (WINNER), Costume Design (WINNER), Visual Effects
  • Leonardo DiCaprio – “Inception”
    • Precursors – Satellite Awards, Saturn Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography (WINNER), Original Score, Sound Editing (WINNER), Sound Mixing (WINNER), Visual Effects (WINNER)
  • Robert Duvall – “Get Low”
    • Precursors – Critics Choice Awards, SAG Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Paul Giamatti – “Barney’s Version”
    • Precursors – Golden Globes Awards (WINNER)
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Makeup
  • Ryan Gosling – “Blue Valentine”
    • Precursors – Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globes Awards, 
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Actress (Michelle Williams)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal – “Love and Other Drugs”
    • Precursors – Golden Globes Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Edgar Ramirez – “Carlos”
    • Precursors – Los Angeles Film Critics Association (Runner Up), National Society of Film Critics (Runner Up), Golden Globes Awards (Miniseres), Emmy Awards (Miniseries), SAG Awards (Miniseries)
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Kevin Spacey – “Casino Jack”
    • Precursors – Golden Globes Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Mark Wahlberg – “The Fighter”
    • Precursors – Golden Globes Awards, 
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Picture, Director (David O’Russell), Supporting Actor (Christian Bale) (WINNER), Supporting Actress (Melissa Leo) (WINNER), Supporting Actress (Amy Adams), Original Screenplay, Film Editing


The Golden Globes often go off the beaten path for nominees. Yet, the 2010 Golden Globes ceremony lives in infamy for their truly baffling choices. Look no further than Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy. Jake Gyllenhaal seemed like a major Oscar player for “Love and Other Drugs,” until the movie came and went very quickly. Only the Globes honored him. Kevin Spacey certainly didn’t come close for “Casino Jack,” a movie that seems to be exclusively released to members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Eventual winner Paul Giamatti (“Barney’s Version”) feels like the strangest of default choices. His role requires the “most” acting of the bunch and was the least offensive of a winner. 

The Globes loved Johnny Depp so much they nominated him twice this year – “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Tourist.” The nomination for “The Tourist” is so much of a fluke that it’s not worth mentioning among Six Spot contenders. Still, people still loved Depp at this point. His performance as the Mad Hatter was instrumental in the film’s billion dollar gross. Of these five crazy nominees, his “Alice” performance looks like it got the closest to Oscar. 

One of the strangest Oscar stories was “Carlos,” Olivier Assayas’ piece about terrorist Carlos the Jackal. As the titular role, Edgar Ramirez received rave reviews for his performance. However, awards groups were confused on how to classify “Carlos.” Was it a four hour epic or a four part miniseries? Ramirez earned Best Actor in a Miniseries nominations from the Golden Globes, SAG Awards and Emmy Awards. Yet, that didn’t stop the Los Angeles Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics from giving him Runner-Up status in Best Actor. At the end of the day, it looks like they leaned more towards the Miniseries route.


The performance with the most high profile precursor nominations was, coincidentally, one of the most low profile performances. Robert Duvall leads “Get Low,” a summer sleeper about a hermit who plans his own funeral. Duvall showed up both at the Critics Choice and SAG Awards. Many thought he would receive a de facto nomination based on his long career. While that didn’t happen this year, it wouldn’t be long until this logic proved correct. Duvall earned a de facto nomination for his career a few years later for “The Judge” in Supporting Actor.

The other Critics Choice nominee that missed out on Oscar was “Blue Valentine” star Ryan Gosling. On top of the Critics Choice nomination, Gosling also received a Golden Globes nomination for Lead Actor in a Drama. Throughout the awards season, Gosling’s nominations would usually be accompanied by a nomination for his leading lady, Michelle Williams. Gosling may have even received more precursors than Williams, who was in a more competitive race. Yet, Williams was able to earn an Oscar nomination for “Blue Valentine,” while Gosling was snub. Though Gosling had earned a Lead Actor nomination for “Half Nelson” in 2006, this was his second big snub (after “Lars and the Real Girl”). Voters clearly saw and liked “Blue Valentine.” They just might have liked Michelle Williams more.


Four of the five nominees this year came from Best Picture nominees. Was it possible that one other Best Picture headliner could have made it five for five? Start of the year predictions were bullish about Leonardo DiCaprio in “Inception.” DiCaprio was very much in the hunt for his Oscar win and Christopher Nolan had just directed Heath Ledger to an Oscar win. Once the film came out, audiences showed up in droves and critics showered it with praises. At the end of the day, it won four Oscars out of eight nominations, including Best Picture. Yet, DiCaprio barely showed up at any of the precursors. The Nolan snub in Best Director also illustrates that maybe “Inception” was less likely to pick up any surprise acting nominations.

Another Best Picture nominee that did very well this year was “The Fighter.” David O’Russell’s sports drama earned seven nominations, including Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay and three acting nominations. Both Christian Bale and Melissa Leo won Supporting Actor and Actress for the film. Once the film announced itself as critical, commercial and awards hit, pundits began asking how many nominations the film could get. Many thought that Mark Wahlberg had the potential to sneak into Best Actor. His role was more stoic than the crazy supporting players in the cast. Yet, Wahlberg already had an Oscar nomination to his name (“The Departed” in 2006). O’Russell would make a habit of getting surprise acting nominees (see Jacki Weaver for “Silver Linings Playbook” and Christian Bale for “American Hustle”). Yet, with just a Golden Globes nomination, the magic didn’t seem to work for Wahlberg.



Who do you think came in 6th place in the 2010 Best Actor race? Share with us in the comments below.


What do you think?

AC Fan

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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