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Do early wins make Forest Whitaker an Oscar lock?

December 28, 2006 |  9:03 am

Sure, as of right now, it looks like Forest Whitaker will win best actor at the Oscars for "Last King of Scotland." So far he's won almost every critics' award and, based upon what I'm hearing from within the ranks of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, he'll probably nab the Golden Globe next.

Sometimes these award juggernauts are impossible to stop once momentum builds, as Geoffrey Rush discovered when he claimed the Academy Award for "Shine" soon after pulling off wins at the New York and L.A. film critics, then Globes.

But as Edward Douglas of notes below, let's not forget what happened to "Gangs of New York" star Daniel Day-Lewis. He swept up victories from the New York and L.A. Film critics, then SAG members, but lost on Oscar night to Adrien Brody ("The Pianist").

Many actors experienced the same Oscar heartbreak after sweeping the early kudos, but Day-Lewis is an especially good example to cite because he and Whitaker have something peculiar, and spooky, in common: both portrayed sinister roles with furious, eye-popping intensity. Day-Lewis was street gang leader Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting. Whitaker is Uganda's bloodthirsty dictator Idi Amin.

It's rare that villainous roles win Oscars. It happens from time to time, yes, as we saw with Anthony Hopkins prevailing as a devious serial killer in "The Silence of the Lambs." But Hopkins handled the role with such flamboyant excess and a taunting wink that it was hilariously campy. Whitaker really lets loose, too, but doesn't wash it down with chianti and fava beans. Hopkins had something else in his favor: his film was headed toward a best-picture win and, when that happens, stars often get to go along for the ride. There's not much hope that "Last King" can do that.

Thus it's entirely possible that Whitaker's early romp really mirrors the experience of Bob Hoskins, who won best actor from the N.Y. and L.A. Critics, National Society of Film Critics, the Golden Globes and BAFTA, but then lost to a film legend overdue for an Oscar: Paul Newman ("The Color of Money"). Whitaker faces a similar situation at the upcoming Oscars: Peter O'Toole ("Venus").

Which scenario do you think will end up applying to Whitaker this year? Click on the "Comments" link below.


Photos, from left: Whitaker, Day-Lewis, Hoskins, Rush.

(Fox Searchlight/ Miramax/ Handmade Films/ L.A. Times)

The comments to this entry are closed.


Hopefully the academy will vote for Peter O'Toole - did anyone see Casanova on PBS? he was as usual great - he's just the best for all time and hopefully an oscar would increase his employment - he is so gifted and generously shares his gift with us all. Long live Peter O'Toole!

I really think the Oscar should go to Leonardo Dicaprio -- at the very least because he deserved the Oscar just as much as Jamie Foxx did for the Aviator -- at best -- he pulled in not one but two great performances in two different and well done films. He is the actor of the year and if the Departed is going to sweep, it should include Leonardo Dicaprio because he truly deserves it.

Frankie R., Meryl Streep has only won two Oscars. One for Kramer vs. Kramer and another for Sophie's Choice.

Everybody says that the winner wil be Peter O'Tool or Forest Whitaker but I really Think the oscar should go to Forest or to Leonardo DiCaprio fro the Departed but remember Capote last Year It won nothing but best actor of the year and beat Heath won did a good job in Broke but to me the best Actor was or Joaquin Phonex for Walk the Line or Phillip Seymour and then there is Nicole kidman who won an oscar in the Hours but didn't deserb it well to me she just played a supportin role and then whe have the case with Charlize theron in Monster who played the best role for an actrees in 2003 so it gets hard here for Forest.

My humble Oscar predictions/chances for best actor:
Peter O'Toole for "Venus" (even with the "last chance to win an Oscar" sympathy on his side, I don't think he has a chance. Haven't seen the film, but the clips I have seen are subdued, and Oscar voters NEVER reward subtlety).
Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland" (there is an Oscar with his name on it right now in some warehouse in SoCal. And he deserves it. I will pass out on my floor on Oscar night if Whitaker doesn't win [same for Golden Globe night]. He's been the buzz guy since the summer, even before the film came out!).
Leonardo DiCaprio for "The Departed" (an automatic nomination. But who's really talking about how good he was in that film?)
Sacha Baron Cohen in "Borat" (it's probably the most talked about film of the year, and definitely the funniest. Since the film won't get a Best Picture nom, Baron Cohen should at least be recognized in the acting category. It would be a shame if he's left out. Plus, the Academy will look very "uncool" if they don't nominate him).
Ken Watanabe for "Letters from Iwo Jima" (this will be as much of a nod to Eastwood and "arty films" as it would be to Watanabe. And he was previously nominated for "The Last Samurai," so he has name recognition among voters).

I don't think Will Smith will be nominated. Has anyone said a peep about him or the film since the first week it came out? I don't even see commercials for it anymore.

Dream nominatiion: Ryan Gosling for "Half Nelson." A great performance. He's one of those actors who can say nothing and convey everything. Gosling is Sean Penn's heir apparent, in my opinion. But he won't get a nomination; not enough people saw the film. And it's too ethereal of a performance (see comment about O'Toole.)

I have very little doubt that O'Toole will finally win his Oscar. And it won't just be because its overdue, IMO his performance was better and moved me more.....and I think it will move Oscar voters too.

As much as I hope for an O'Toole win, it's gonna be a repeat of the awful Begnini win from a few years back. Everyone one then expected it to be either Ian McKellen or Nick Nolte. Both proceeded to get ripped off by the crummy comic actor. This is the year of the wildly overrated Borat. And if anyone thinks the Academy is too old to vote for a "comic visionary" like Cohen, think again. How the hell did a song about a pimp win Best Song last year? The Academy's choices don't skew as old as they once did. While that is a good thing overall, it spells trouble for Pete. I will proceed to vomit uncontrollably when they announce Cohen's name instead of the mighty O'Toole!

And I will heave yet again if I read one more comparison of the "comic visionary" Cohen to the great Peter Sellars....

Peter O'Toole's not winning the Oscar this year, Tom. It's time to put that baby to bed. I'll eat my hat if it happens at this point. No one really cares about "Venus" anymore. The poor guy couldn't even get love from the London critics.

It's a tough race this year. It's relatively easy to predict nominees but the winner is harder. Not to take away anything from Whitaker's brilliant performance - but some people still see McAvoy as lead and Whitaker as supporting. Then you have the black vote splitting with Will Smith - a beloved mainstream popular guy who's showing his acting power in what many will see as a very emotional performance. Don't count out Leonardo DiCaprio, well respected and starring in the movie that is likely to take best picture. And of course there's O'Toole (As much as I adore Gosling he will never win, and if someone else takes that fifth spot - he wouldn't either).
Overall, it makes sense to me that O'Toole will win by a few votes. That is, if voters all see the movie. If they don't, then it's Leo's.

Academy Award-winner Leonardo DiCaprio

You'll be hearing that in the next couple months

I don't care for him myself, but neither Whitaker or O'Toole have Leo's box office. They don't even have Helen Mirren's box office. Their films are small, and Leo's the 300lb gorilla in the room.

Whitaker is O'Toole's only competition. Oh, and if you can't get more than two other people to turn they're lists in then skip a week.

Come on, Tom. The signs are out there and LAFC bravely pointed that out. Good Old Peter moved to Drama in the Globes to avoid the Borat tsunami... The Dark Horse is Sacha Baron Cohen... the reviews are pointing out how groundbreaking the movie is, and the AMPAS may think that they have to acknowledge HIS breakthrough year in some way. They have 3 ways of doing so, nominating him as Lead Actor (which it is looking more and more certain each day that goes by), as writer (Original Screenplay, which he might not win, given Babel's and Little Miss Sunshine's more probable noms) and Best Song (Oh, Kazakhstan is ellegible and that could be the safest option for the Academy, as they did with Trey Parker with South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut). However, if he does score the noms, 3 noms, certainly he WILL win something. If he only scores Lead Actor nom, the Academy is forced to either reward one of the movies of the year by awarding a certainly challenging performance (yet comedic!) over some actors they know won't have much problem in being nom'd soon again (Smith, Whittaker, Gosling, di Caprio) or one that they know is much more material of Honorary Award (O'Toole).

I still say Forest, but if he doesn't, the winner will be Sacha Baron Cohen, in a Benigni style victory.

Forest Whitaker may be the critics darling but the Academy, for all their past sins, will have to give O'Toole his actual acting Oscar--sentimental and all. Paul Newman got it and so did Al Pacino after 7 tries each and for films that weren't exactly their best work. But you'll have to consider as well and truly sad indeed how well-liked and respected is Mr. Whitaker is amongst the industry people aka the popularity contest syndrome. If you're like say Ms. Streisand, who is respected but not very well liked in the industry, then chances are most Academy members will snub you. As for the Best Actress race--yes, Ms. Mirren looks like a lock for Best Actress but don't be suprised if a "Helen Hunt" moment occurs. So far the predictions on the nomination for Best Actress looks like this: Kate Winslet, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, Penelope Cruz. You'll notice the four possible nominees are foreign born and Meryl is the only American. As I recalled, the reason why Helen Hunt won the Oscar for Best Actress for AS GOOD AS IT GETS was because she was the only American amongst nominees of mostly foreign born actresses. Judi Dench was the favorite to win for Mrs. Brown but I guess her votes ended up being split amongst the other foreign born actresses which led to Ms. Hunt's win. If this should occur again, then Ms. Streep will tie Kathrine Hepburn for most Oscars won by an actor/actress.

i think the only lock so far is Helen Mirren. i'd LOVE to see Peter O'toole rewarded for his decades of uncompromising work. other monsters have won before, besides Mr Hopkins. who i have nothing but respect for. he came to canada to do a film and he was an absolutely charming, gracious man.
louise fletcher wasnt exactly a nice lady in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
anne baxter was quite a few miles short of nice in ALL ABOUT EVE
But you're right tom, monsters rarely win.Monsters are rarely just monstrous all the time and can have that disconcerting human trait called charm, and charisma. but then, the actors who deserve to win often dont win either.
this year i dont think an obvious front runner has emerged, especially for Best Pic, i also feel that nominating Leonardo twice for the same prize is sabotaging.

I agree with you Tom on how this Best Actor race is mirroring the one where Hoskins lost to Newman. It will be interesting to also see how the SAGs will pick. And along with Hopkins, in terms of Oscar-winning villains, Denzel in "Training Day" probably counts as well.

I do not think he will lose the race. I think that this is a Philip Seymour Hoffman race, where the winner is clear going in. The only possible upset would go to Peter O'Toole and that would be for sentiment (Although in my opinion, O'Toole's performance is better)

I think the SOTL scenario works entirely in reverse. Hopkins & JODIE FOSTER powered SOTL to a Picture win, SOTL did not sweep along Hopkins. Also you can not even compare the cultural impact of Hopkins performance to the non-impact of Whitaker's.

I still think Peter O'Toole will pull it off this year. After all, he was slighted year after year in contests where he was the critical favorite but lost in one upset after another. Case in point, his Henry II in LION IN WINTER lost to, of all things, Cliff Robertson in CHARLY. If Scorsese is a sure thing on a good--but not his greatest--effort, O'Toole can do the same.

Mr. O'Neil, I think at this point...we can never expect that Oscar night is all but in the bag for some categories. While last year, was indeed a freak year, and all the globe winners ended up being Oscar winnera...I think it's safe to say that Whittaker still needs to look out for O'Toole or even Will Smith or Ryan Gosling. If Gosling or Smith gain momentum, then watch out!



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