The year 2022 has been a pretty straightforward year for the Best Actor race. Brendan Fraser and Colin Farrell grabbed their spots early on in the season, and the other spots have gotten clearer in the last few weeks, especially with the BAFTA nominations. For a brief while, there were some dark horses like Adam Sandler for Netflix’s Hustler and newcomer Gabriel LaBelle for The Fabelmans, but they didn’t get any traction.
Ditto for the Best Actress Oscar, which is a two-way race at this point between Cate Blanchett and Michelle Yeoh taking up the first two slots. Everyone else is just playing for the “happy to be nominated” spots. If Babylon was better received, then Margot Robbie’s incandescent Nellie LaRoy could have been a real contender.
Here are our predictions:
Brendan Fraser (Charlie, The Whale)
Nineties' heartthrob Brendan Fraser made a stunning comeback in 2022 with his heart-wrenching performance as the dying teacher Charlie in The Whale. Fraser received a six-minute standing ovation at the film’s premiere in the Venice International Film Festival, and is riding a wave of nostalgia and goodwill from the industry.
Colin Farrell (Pádraic Súilleabháin, The Banshees of Inisherin)
After an ill-advised attempt at mainstream stardom in the early 2000s leading to a stint in rehab for drug addiction, Irish actor Colin Farrell has been building up a steady reputation over the last few years with solid performances across television and movies. The Farrell-aissance is now complete with his turn as "dull" Pádraic Súilleabháin in Banshees...
Austin Butler (Elvis Presley, Elvis)
Austin Butler, 31, may seem like a newcomer to moviegoers, but he has already had a long career as a teen star in multiple television shows. His transformation as Elvis has been so complete that even his recent speech for winning Best Actor (Drama) at the Golden Globes was delivered in the trademark Elvis voice.
Bill Nighy (Rodney Williams, Living)
There’s usually one spot for an elderly British actor - Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman, Ian McKellen, Jonathan Pryce, etc., the kind of actor whom one would describe as a "thespian". This year, it’s Bill Nighy who has been a steady presence across movies, television and theatre in the UK for decades now. He delivers a stellar performance as dying bureaucrat Rodney Williams in this remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952) adapted by acclaimed novelist Kazuo Ishiguro.
The fifth spot is a toss-up between 26-year-old Irish newcomer Paul Mescal and the man who saved cinemas, Tom Cruise.
Paul Mescal (Calum Petersen, Aftersun)
Paul Mescal, 26, has been receiving rave reviews (and a BAFTA nomination) for his turn as the troubled young father Calum Petersen in Charlotte Wells’ debut feature Aftersun. He is currently in talks to star in Ridley Scott’s sequel to Gladiator (2000), and is poised to have a long career with multiple chances at another Oscar.
Tom Cruise (Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, Top Gun: Maverick)
When Top Gun: Maverick was first set to release in the summer of 2020, no one would have guessed that it would be in the Oscars conversation, let alone for Best Actor. But the stunning box-office performance and the unexpectedly well-written character arcs in the sequel’s script have made Maverick a contender. The perennially young Cruise plays vulnerable for the first time in years and allows his age to be seen on screen. Could this be the fourth nomination for Tom Cruise?
Cate Blanchett (Lydia Tár, Tár)
Cate Blanchett delivers a powerhouse performance as embattled maestro Lydia Tár. She has already won the Golden Globe for Best Actress (Drama) and is more than likely to win the BAFTA for Best Actress as well. Blanchett has two statuettes and will take home this one as well, unless…
Michelle Yeoh (Evelyn, Everything Everywhere All At Once)
Evelyn Wong, née Quan — mother, warrior, wife, actress, agent, woman; Michelle Yeoh gives her all in this performance that allows her to play everyone, all at once. It’s going to be a marathon for Yeoh, who will have to keep the momentum going to beat Blanchett. The key here will be the SAG award (Screen Actors Guild Awards), given by actors, who also comprise the largest voting block in the Academy.
Danielle Deadwyler (Mamie Till, Till)
Danielle Deadwyler has been working steadily in television for the last decade, including a pivotal performance in HBO’s Station Eleven last year. She has begun to be noticed after her critically-lauded performance in Netflix’s The Harder They Fall (2021) and delivers a devastating turn in grieving mother and activist, Mamie Till, in the biopic Till.
Ana de Armas (Norma Jeane Mortenson/Marilyn Monroe, Blonde)
Andrew Dominik’s Blonde based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel of the same name, was rejected by audiences as exploitative and distasteful. But Ana de Armas garnered critical acclaim for her portrayal as Norma Jean and Marilyn Monroe, capturing all the neuroses and insecurities of Monroe. It’s a tour-de-force performance, and might have had a better chance of winning if it were part of a less polarising movie.
Viola Davis (General Nanisca, The Woman King)
Viola Davis gave an outstanding performance as the battle-scarred warrior Nanisca harboring a secret from her past. Davis is not just physically convincing, her eyes convey the toll that all her missions and decisions have taken on her. She also produced the film, which has a tough fight ahead of it in Best Director and Best Film.
Olivia Colman (Hilary Small, Empire of Light)
Oscar winner for The Favourite (2018), Olivia Colman delivers a bravura performance as cinema manager Hilary dealing with mental-health issues and the fallout of her relationships. The Sam Mendes-directed movie failed to find an audience, and Colman was surprisingly snubbed by the BAFTAs.
Michelle Williams (Mitzi Schildkraut-Fabelman, The Fabelmans)
Four-time nominee Michelle Williams has yet to win an Oscar, despite being widely recognised as one of the best actors of her generation. She has been campaigning in the lead actress category for her role as the free-spirited Mitzi in The Fabelmans, but Academy voters could choose to vote for her in Supporting Actress, which would be a better outcome.