It’s been a hot button debate over the past several years, but things seem to be boiling to a head this year. When is a performance considered Lead, and when it is considered Supporting? Frankly, I can’t tell the difference anymore.
Here are 12 examples of the muddling of the categories from this awards season:
Anthony Hopkins receives top-billing for “The Two Popes”. He plays Pope Benedict XVI. However, the story is told from the perspective of the future Pope Francis, played by Jonathan Pryce. He receives second billing. Yet, for awards consideration, Netflix has Pryce in the Lead Actor category and Hopkins is going for a Supporting Actor nomination.
Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones were co-leads in 2014’s “The Theory of Everything”. Therefore, they were appropriately placed in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. They are essentially on-screen an equal amount of time in Amazon’s “The Aeronauts”, but while Jones is being campaigned in Lead Actress, Redmayne is in Supporting Actor. It doesn’t make sense.
Robert Pattinson is in “The Lighthouse” slightly more than Willem Dafoe. But even though Dafoe is given top billing and has the showier performance, he’s in Supporting Actor and Pattinson is vying for Lead Actor consideration.
Tom Hanks plays Fred Rogers in the drama “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. He’s been the core person in the marketing, even though this is NOT a Mister Rogers biopic. Therefore, he’s going for Supporting Actor, and Matthew Rhys (billed second) is in the Lead Actor conversation.
In a rare occurrence, Paul Walter Hauser is being advertised as the “and…” when listed among the ensemble of “Richard Jewell”. Yet, because he plays the title character, he’s the only one WB has listed for Lead Actor consideration.
Matt Damon and Christian Bale are close to co-leads in “Ford v. Ferrari”. But Fox could’ve made an argument to stick Bale (who has less screen time and is billed second) in Supporting Actor. However, the studio has chosen to place them both in Lead Actor.
This Spring’s little-seen “The Best of Enemies” saw Sam Rockwell receive twice as much screen time as Taraji P. Henson, even though Henson earned top-billing (and Rockwell is an Oscar winner).
“Honey Boy” stars Shia LaBeouf and Noah Jupe are both Independent Spirit Awards Best Supporting Actor nominees, even though they are the two main performers in the film.
Alfre Woodard has the clear, sole lead role in “Clemency”, but NEON is also campaigning for Aldis Hodge in the Lead Actor category, even though it’s much more of a supporting one.
Brad Pitt is a Supporting Actor contender for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” based on two reasons: 1) He is the definitive star of “Ad Astra” and 2) Leonardo DiCaprio does have more of a presence in Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie.
Martin Scorsese’s three and a half hour “The Irishman” sees Robert De Niro with top-billing and the most screen time. But, simply based on length of time on screen, Al Pacino’s supporting work as Jimmy Hoffa could be considered a “Lead” performance in films that were much shorter.
“The Good Liar” will NOT be receiving any awards nominations this year (except maybe from the Razzies). Still, it’s a bit surprising that Ian McKellen gets 2nd billing, when he’s on screen much more than Helen Mirren.