Under the Circuit: David Oyelowo


Most Known For: “Selma,” “Interstellar,” “Jack Reacher”

Snubbed For: “Selma,” “Lee Daniels the Butler”

There were a number of surprising snubs when the Oscar nominations came out last Thursday, but one of the biggest was the small haul of nominations that “Selma” ended up getting. While it managed a Best Picture nomination, the Civil Rights drama only managed to land one other for Best Original Song, leaving Ava DuVernay and lead actor David Oyelowo out in the cold. While each could get their own column on why these were major snubs (and DuVernay likely will at some point) let’s focus on Oyelowo’s track record with the Academy and see why this most recent snub isn’t his first.

middle-of-nowhere-moviePrior to his turn as Dr. Martin Luther King, Oyelowo was a recognizable face thanks to a number of supporting roles in films like “The Last King of Scotland,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “The Help.” But while he was filling out his resume with those supporting turns, he was also establishing a very important relationship with DuVernay as he starred in her second directorial effort, “Middle of Nowhere.” While DuVernay and star Emayatzy Corinealdi garnered a lot of the buzz for the indie, Oyelowo was widely recognized for his performance as well, earning an Indie Spirit nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

That was in 2012, a big year for Oyelowo as he would also star in “Red Tails,” “The Paperboy,” “Jack Reacher” and in “Lincoln” as a young soldier who makes an impression on the president. Oyelowo also clearly makes an impression with the people he works with, because after working with Lee Daniels on “The Paperboy” Oyelowo would take on a crucial role in Daniels’ next project, “The Butler.”

David-Oyelowo-The-ButlerNow I am no fan of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” in really any way save for the performance by Oyelowo. As the son to the titular butler, it is through him that the Civil Rights aspect of the film is portrayed. This easily makes him the most interesting character in the film and the only performance that has any real spark to it – sorry Oprah fans. “The Butler” was entirely shut out at the Oscars, which was ok in my book, but if there was anywhere the Academy deserved to honor the film it certainly would have been for Oyelowo.

2014 was another good year for Oyelowo, with supporting performances in “Interstellar” and “A Most Violent Year” as well as joining the “Star Wars” universe as a voice actor in the new series “Star Wars Rebels.” But, as we all know, 2014 was all about “Selma” for Oyelowo.

The snub of his powerful portrayal of Dr. King is well documented and analyzed by this point. Yes, it was a very crowded field of actor contenders this year and someone was going to go home disappointed, but when Bradley Cooper’s performance in “American Sniper” – mind you, a very strong performance – wins out over the likes of Oyelowo with the Academy, it unsurprisingly leads to a lot of head shaking.

If there is a silver-lining to all of this, it is that David Oyelowo is now a known quantity, not only within Hollywood but across the country, and there will be opportunities for him almost immediately to continue his ascension up the Hollywood ladder and possibly into a seat at the Academy Awards. 2015 will see him star as an escaped convict who takes a single mother hostage in “Captive,” then as the manager to jazz musician Nina Simone in “Nina.” Perhaps most intriguing though will be “Queen of Katwe,” which he will star in alongside Oscar-winner Lupita Nyongo set to come out in 2016.

“Selma” was great work from Oyelowo and work that should have been rewarded, but it wouldn’t be the Oscars if mistakes weren’t made. Hopefully this will just make that first ever nomination, should the stars align, that much more enjoyable for him.


What do you think?

72 points

Written by Michael Balderston

NoVA native who has returned to the Washington D.C. area after two years in L.A. My biggest annoyance since leaving L.A. is not having immediate access to indie films on their first weekend, but I'm making due. When I'm not tracking the year's Oscar players or exploring film history, I'm rooting for my Philadelphia sports teams.

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