It’s always fun when an Oscars category is filled with first-time nominees at varying stages of their careers. Best actor is another three-way race, between Austin Butler, Colin Farrell and Brendan Fraser, with each having scored notable wins from guilds and critics groups. The Associated Press’ film writers predict Fraser to have the edge.
Here’s a bit more about the nominees and their roles before the Oscars on March 12, which airs live on ABC beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern. And if you’ve missed a performance, there’s still time to watch this year’s nominees.
Brendan Fraser doesn’t mind that people have called his turn in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale,” in which he plays a reclusive English teacher named Charlie who is grappling with his past in the midst of a dire prognosis, a “comeback.” But it’s not the word he’d choose.
“If anything, this is a reintroduction more than a comeback,” Fraser told The AP. “It’s an opportunity to reintroduce myself to an industry, who I do not believe forgot me as is being perpetrated. I’ve just never been that far away.”
The film, an adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s play, shows a different side of Fraser as an actor than the affable action/comedy roles that made him beloved and famous in the 1990s.
“I gave it everything I had every day,” he said. “We lived under existential threat of COVID. An actor’s job is to approach everything like it’s the first time. I did but also as if it might be the last time.”
Notable Wins: Critics Choice, Screen Actors Guild.
In Martin McDonagh’s tragicomic tale of the end of a friendship “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Colin Farrell’s Pádraic is the one being broken up with by Brendan Gleeson’s Colm on their small Irish island in 1923.
“He has an innocence where he can’t comprehend why his friend of so many years has cut him out,” Farrell said of his character last year at the Venice Film Festival, where he’d go on to win the best actor prize. “It shakes him to his core ... He lives in a beautiful life and that beauty is taken away.”
The film was a reunion for the trio who developed a deep bond on “In Bruges” 14 years ago.
“From the start, there was a deep sense of kinship and an understanding of each other,” Farrell told The AP. “In a strange way, I understand myself more through Martin and his mind and his heart and his work. And I understand myself more through my interactions with Brendan.”
Notable Wins: Venice Film Festival, New York Film Critics Circle, National Board of Review, Golden Globes (Musical/Comedy).
Austin Butler spent so much time and mental and emotional energy in preparing to play and playing Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s colorful drama that he finds it difficult to talk about without “sounding incredibly pretentious and self-important,” he told The AP. “There are certain aspects that even I don’t fully understand.”
The past few weeks have brought their own emotional highs and lows too, with his Golden Globe win, his Oscar nomination and the tragic death of Lisa Marie Presley in the span of a few days.
“The peaks are so high and the valleys have been so low,” Butler said.
“I just wish Lisa Marie were here with us to celebrate. At times, in the midst of intense grief and just a shattering loss, it feels sort of bizarre to celebrate. But I also know how much this film meant to Lisa Marie, how much her father’s legacy meant to her. So I feel so proud and humble to be a part of that story.”
Notable Wins: Golden Globes (Drama), BAFTA.
Bill Nighy plays a British civil servant who receives a terminal diagnosis in 1953 London in Oliver Hermanus’s remake of the Kurosawa classic “Ikiru.”
“I was very moved by it when we were making it, the fact that we were making it, that we were back and that it was the first thing I’d done since the pandemic,” Nighy told The AP. “The pandemic forced us to look at our priorities in our lives and all that and this film discusses how to make the most of every day. So I suppose in that regard it was timely.”
The veteran actor said he thought they were making something special, but he was unprepared for the rapturous reception everywhere. And thematic resonance aside, it hasn’t got him thinking about his own legacy.
“I don’t ever think in terms of legacy,” he said. “I find it difficult to get enthusiastic about a world which is not going to include me.”
Notable Wins: Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
Paul Mescal did not expect to come out of “Aftersun” friends with an 11-year-old. But that’s what happened with his co-star Frankie Corio on the set of Charlotte Wells’ personal and evocative film about a young father and his daughter on vacation in Türkiye in the 1990s.
“Both of us got out two weeks before filming started. There was kind of a loose plan that we might rehearse. And we did some of that, but ultimately, we just spent the two weeks where I was playing like pretending to be her dad,” Mescal told The AP. “It’s one of the greatest professional experiences that I’ve had. It really surprised me. I fell in love with her and I adore her and she’s just a phenomenal actor.”
The Irish actor said he likes working on smaller films with first-time directors. If anything, he hopes that his raised profile following his nomination might help him be able to get another project like that made.
“I take great pride in the fact that there’s an appetite for those films still,” he said.