2023 Oscars: Best Actor Predictions

Written by on January 26, 2023

Colin Farrell and Austin Butler benefit from starring in Best Picture nominees, but Brendan Fraser looms large in the Best Actor Oscar race.

We keep updating these predictions through the awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks. Final voting is March 2 through 7, 2023.  The 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT.

See our initial thoughts for what to expect at the 95th Academy Awards here.

The State of the Race

On Oscar nominations morning, four expected contenders made the cut. Always with an advantage in the Best Actor race are movies with Best Picture nominations. Thus celebrated titles like the soulful friendship tale “The Banshees of Inisherin” (nine nods) and musical biopic “Elvis” (eight), starring Globe winners Colin Farrell (Comedy) and Austin Butler (Drama) respectively, are ahead of weepy Critics Choice winner Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”), which landed a second nomination for Supporting Actress Hong Chau as well as a third for Makeup and Hairstyling.

Darren Aronofsky’s drama about a man in poor health hoping to reconnect with his daughter was thought to be a shoo-in for Adapted Screenplay and Picture, but missed the mark. Both “Banshees” and “The Whale” premiered in competition at this year’s Venice Film Festival, where Farrell beat out Fraser for the Volpi Cup award. Farrell’s poignant portrayal of a lovable dope not able to accept all the changes occurring in his provincial life is a reminder that he’s one of the great working actors that has never been nominated.

While the comeback narrative surrounding Fraser has been moving full steam ahead, “The Whale” is a more difficult pill to swallow. The Academy isn’t typically bothered by actors in fat suits (Gary Oldman won Best Actor in 2017 for donning one to play Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour”), but the movie doesn’t bring the same level of empathy for Fraser’s obese character and his eating disorder as the actor does. Fraser has been hitting every campaign stop, charming as ever, but continues to field questions about tackling a sensitive subject matter that affects so many people. That delicate dance may or may not work out in his favor.

As for the rest of the group, “Elvis” star Austin Butler is holding strong, though the campaign for the hit summer biopic has hit a soft pause as the cast and crew mourn the recent death of Lisa Marie Presley. British veteran Bill Nighy finally landed his first nomination after decades of celebrated work in film and theater. His touching work in Oliver Hermanus’ “Living” deals with legacy, and gave Nighy a change of pace from his scene-stealing turn in “Love Actually,” seen every holiday season by legions of cheerful viewers.

Not finding support for the fifth slot were Jeremy Pope (“The Inspection”), Hugh Jackman (“The Son”), or SAG nominee Adam Sandler (“Hustle”). Instead, rising 26-year-old actor Paul Mescal, after getting the spotlight from critics groups and BAFTA for his performance as a depressed father in Charlotte Wells’ lauded indie “Aftersun,” landed his first Oscar nomination. Well-deserved.

Nominees are listed below in order of likelihood they will win.

Contenders:
Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)
Austin Butler (“Elvis”)
Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”)
Bill Nighy (“Living”)
Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”)

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