In a recent interview with the BBC, while promoting the UK release of his crime saga Black Mass, Johnny Depp told the media that he hopes he doesn’t win an Oscar anytime soon. Depp stated that the idea of delivering an awards speech doesn’t interest him. Nor does he like to think of himself as being in "competition" with any other actors.
With all due respect to Mr. Depp, he might not have much of a choice this year. His menacing performance as Boston enforcer James "Whitey" Bulger has him in the annual Oscar conversation, hovering near the top of a field that has yet to really produce powerful candidates. What a difference a year makes. Last season, at this early stage of the game, we had so many potential Best Actor candidates, we easily could have fielded two categories of worthy nominees. What it mean, at the end of the First Phase, was that several talented performances were left on the outside looking in, left without a nomination.
Skip to this year, and we’re still looking for the strongest five to stand up and be counted. There are two frontrunners in my mind: one based on the fact that some have seen the film (Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs; and one who many are starting to argue is "due" for a career that so far has gone unrecognized (Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant). After that, we have hopefuls who are just starting their campaigns. Matt Damon holds the screen for the duration of The Martian, providing enough sugar to help all that science go down. Depp, as mentioned, is a force to be reckoned with in Black Mass. On Friday, audiences will experience a throwback performance by Tom Hanks that has a nostalgic, Old Hollywood aura to it. Speaking of Old Hollywood, the Academy may warm to Bryan Cranston’s blacklist-drama Trumbo when it starts to open.
But without a clear-cut favorite – or a powerful field – Johnny Depp might want to hire a speech writer, at the very least, and recite a few practice verses in the mirror. Just to be safe.
Here’s where I think the Oscar contenders sit on October 13:
The Dark Horses