The 2013 Best Supporting Actor Oscar race is the closest it’s been in years. Alan Arkin (“Argo”), Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Philip Seymour Hoffman (“The Master”), Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”) and Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”) are all up for the honor, and it’s anyone’s guess who will take home the statue.
Throughout Oscar history, there have been several tight Best Supporting Oscar races.
In 1993, nominees for the award included Gene Hackman ("Unforgiven”), Jaye Davidson (“The Crying Game”), Jack Nicolson (“A Few Good Men”) and Al Pacino (“Glengarry Glen Ross”).
At the time, Hackman had not won the award in 21 years, while Nicholson hadn’t received the honor in 10. Pacino, who had been nominated six times but never won, was also up for “Scent of a Woman” in the Best Actor category. Pacino was favored to (and eventually did) triumph in the lead category, but, prior to the ceremony, it was unclear which of his two nominations would earn him the award. Davidson’s turn as a transgender woman posed a real threat to the industry veterans he was up against, but, in the end, Hackman's performance as a morally bankrupt sheriff earned him the gold.
The following year, front-runners for the award included Tommy Lee Jones (“The Fugitive”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”), Ralph Fiennes (“Schindler’s List”) and John Malkovich (“In the Line of Fire”). Fiennes stunned as the famed Nazi war criminal Amon Goeth, while Jones, who starred as a no-nonsense U.S. Marshall, was overdue for award recognition after a lengthy career. Though both actors were considered likely winners, Malkovich could have very well been honored based on his impressive body of work, while DiCaprio’s absorbing depiction of disability made him a plausible upset.
In the end, Jones would take home the coveted honor.
The year 1995 marked another close supporting race that included Martin Landau (“Ed Wood”), Gary Sinise (“Forest Gump”) and Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction”). Though Jackson’s turn as a Bible-quoting hit man made him a strong contender, few could argue with the Academy’s decision to honor Landau’s performance as the heroin-addicted Bela Lugosi.
In 2000, all five nominees had a decent shot at the award. Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules”), Tom Cruise (“Magnolia”), Michael Clarke Duncan (“The Green Mile”), Jude Law (“The Talented Mr. Ripley”) and Haley Joel Osment (“The Sixth Sense”) were up for the award.
Caine won raves for his heart-warming portrayal of an orphanage director, while Cruise wowed as a chauvinistic motivational speaker. As a death row prisoner with healing powers, the late Duncan was also a solid contender. Law’s breakout role as a doomed playboy could have believably earned him Oscar gold, and Osment might have been yet another child actor to receive the honor.
When the intense competition was over, it was Caine who was called to the stage during the ceremony.
In terms of the 2013 race, it’s easier to predict who won’t win. But even that is difficult!
As a Hollywood makeup artist who agrees to aid a hostage rescue, Arkin provided some great comic relief in “Argo,” but it's somewhat unlikely to translate to Oscar gold. Still, let’s not forget that, in 2007, Arkin beat “Dreamgirls” star Eddie Murphy in an upset.
Though Hoffman’s turn as the L. Ron Hubbard-inspired cult leader Lancaster Dodd has been hailed by critics, the actor has remained on the sidelines of the Oscar campaign. Furthermore, he’ll have a hard time competing against frontrunners De Niro, Jones and Waltz.
Jones last won the award for “The Fugitive” roughly two decades ago, and it has been almost 15 years since De Niro was honored with the Oscar for “Raging Bull.”
Waltz, on the other hand, took home the statue for “Inglorious Basterds” in 2010.
A win for Jones could be a way for Oscar voters to toss “Lincoln” a bone, since the film may get little recognition outside of the lead actor category. However, the Academy loves a comeback, and De Niro’s turn as a suffering father in “Silver Linings” has certainly revived his career. The actor’s uncharacteristically emotional state during the Katie Couric stop on the unofficial “Silver Linings” Mental Health Awareness Tour may have also tipped the odds in his favor.
As for Waltz, his captivating portrayal of a quick-witted bounty hunter carried much of “Django Unchained” and already won him a Golden Globe. Will he ride off into sunset with an Oscar as well? Tune in on Feb. 24!