Check out clips and interviews below with the five nominees for this year's Academy Award for Best Actor.
Winners of this year's Oscars will be announced on Sunday, February 9, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood.
Antonio Banderas, "Pain and Glory"
Winner of the Best Actor award at this year's Cannes Film Festival, Banderas gives a subtly-shaded performance as a director who believes he can no longer direct, who has withdrawn into himself as he feels the increasing physical deprivations of age, and who turns to the past by delving into memories and regrets as he enters what may be the last act of his life.
Banderas is terrific as a stand-in for director Pedro Almodóvar (with whom he had collaborated numerous times over the past 40 years), who has conjured a story that is ultimately positive and resistant to doubt, as his protagonist focuses on the aging of the body (which can defeat the artistic will) and the power of memory (which can rescue it).
In an interview with Stephen Colbert on CBS' "The Late Show," Banderas talked about how his heart attack in 2017 left him much more uninhibited in expressing his emotions. "Everything made me cry," he said. "I'm not a crier, believe me. But ever since that time, it was almost like somebody peeled the skin out of me. Everything was more raw. Pedro Almodóvar saw that, and he said to me, 'Don't try to hide that. Show that in the character, please. Because I felt like that when I was suffering all those pains and that isolation.'
"So, you know, we actors, we just suck from everything that is surrounding us. And that was a good experience, in a way. I know that a heart attack is a horrible thing, especially if you don't survive it, obviously! But it could be a good thing. … And actually it was one of the best things that ever happened in my life, because it taught me so much about myself."
- "Pain and Glory" is available On Demand and on Blu-ray and DVD, and to stream via Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube
Leonardo DiCaprio, "Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood"
Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood" tells of the unsettling changes that were underway in Hollywood in the late 1960s, when the studio system was collapsing, and the film and TV industries were desperate to attract a more youthful audience. Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), the fading star of the cancelled TV western series "Bounty Law," dreams of making the transition into movies. And when he does get a job, every shot, every take, could mean career life or death.
In the scene below, Dalton plays a western villain holding a young kidnapped girl (Julia Butters) for ransom. DiCaprio does a wonderful job of playing an actor improvising and trying to gauge how much is too much when portraying a boo-hiss evil character. At the end, he gets what every actor must crave.
DiCaprio, an Oscar-winner for "The Revenant" (he'd received four other acting nominations), told Variety that, in his preparation for the film with Tarantino, he keyed into the careers of three notable TV and B-movie actors of the 1950s and '60s: Ty Hardin (TV's "Bronco"), Edd Byrnes ("77 Sunset Strip"), and Ralph Meeker ("Kiss Me Deadly"). "Once we honed in on Ralph Meeker, I started obsessively watching his work, because there was a vulnerability and sensitivity to him, and a sort of pathos in his work, that I felt Rick had the potential to emulate in his own career. … I think we both mutually decided that, yeah, there is a depth to Rick's work, and applying himself and digging deep, he can give a great performance."
DiCaprio also asked for a scene in which he (purposely) screws up a take while filming a western, forcing Rick Dalton to re-do the scene midway. Tarantino shot it both with and without the interruption: "And then once we did it with the f***up, it was so amazing that of course we're going to use it," the director told Variety.
- "Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood" is available On Demand and on Blu-ray and DVD, and to stream via Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube
Adam Driver, "Marriage Story"
In Noah Baumbach's dramedy about the dissolution of a marriage and the ugly psychic wounds that are peeled back as a divorce inches closer to legal finality, Adam Driver plays Charlie, a theatre director who is resistant to the notion that his wife Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), an actress, has justifiable reasons to leave him. But he is also barely cognizant of the incalculable anger that boils underneath the surface at the thought that their child will now be split between two parents on two coasts...
... until this scene, when Charlie and Nicole have the confrontation that basically spills out every slight and disagreement they have felt during their married life, every rationalization for bad behavior, and the queasy determination over whether there is a "winner" and a "loser" in a divorce case. The technically and emotionally difficult scene, scripted at 11 pages, was shot over two days. Driver and Johansson's powerful performances made the scene the centerpiece of the film's emotional battle between their characters.
Driver, who earned his first Oscar nomination last year for Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman," told Variety that the fight scene was "kind of claustrophobic, because it was just one camera and a bunch of people in one small room. But even though it kind of felt like theatre – it felt like theatre for that group of people, and the theme of theatre and performance is also a theme that runs throughout the movie anyway … the ritual of going through a divorce, you're kind of putting on a performance, taking human moments, writing them down and turning them into weapons, performing them for a judge to make a decision – it kind of lends itself to that scene."
In this interview with Stephen Colbert on CBS' "The Late Show," Driver called the film "a love story about divorce":
- "Marriage Story" is available to stream at Netflix
Joaquin Phoenix, "Joker"
In this origin story for Batman's arch nemesis, a somber character study of how a damaged soul can rebuild itself in an even more damaged fashion, Joaquin Phoenix (who has previously been nominated three times, for "Gladiator," "Walk the Line" and "The Master") maintains his position as one of the very best actors around. He brings an effective pain and dislocation to his performance as Arthur Fleck, a victim of child abuse whose doleful job as a clown only sets him up for continued humiliation. Fleck feels crushed by a society in which violence and nihilism reign, yet isn't attracted to fighting forces of violence and nihilism, and even ignores an opportunity to come to a young woman's aid when she is harassed by jerks on a train. But when their attention turns to him, suddenly his will to lash out has no limits. He becomes, like Batman, a vigilante, one whose actions inspire a mob to burn Gotham down.
Especially powerful is a scene following Fleck's first murders, in which he "dances" to music only he, apparently, can hear. The scene, in which he hides in a bathroom, was unscripted. A music track, by composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, had been sent to director Todd Phillips the day before, and so Phoenix improvised a dance signifying his metamorphosis into a new, terrifying personality. [Not surprisingly, Guðnadóttir is also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score.]
"There were times where I really felt for him," Phoenix said of his character to Anderson Cooper on "60 Minutes." "And there were times where I was disappointed and repulsed by his behavior, right? And I liked that.
"I think oftentimes people feel like I identify and I'm expressing something of my own experience through the character; I think it's the opposite," Phoenix said. "I think it's because oftentimes the characters have these lives and experiences that are so foreign to me that it breaks my heart."
- ("60 Minutes")
Jonathan Pryce, "The Two Popes"
As Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, Jonathan Pryce received his first Oscar nomination in Fernando Meirelles' story of conversations between the future Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI (Best Supporting Actor nominee Anthony Hopkins), a conservative who reveals he intends to retire from his position as the Holy See's leader. Coming at a time of scandal within the Catholic Church, the move is ground-shattering, and potentially damaging (or healing) for the Vatican.
In this scene Bergoglio argues against Benedict breaking the papal tradition of staying in his position until death:
Pryce, a Tony Award-winner whose films credits include "Brazil," "Something Wicked This Way Comes," "Evita," "Tomorrow Never Dies" and "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote," brings tremendous poignancy to his role as a man of faith whose questioning of the church's political functions butts up against his appreciation of the majesty of the divine, as represented by the church's history and rituals.
The veteran stage and screen actor's resemblance to Pope Francis had not gone unnoticed: "The day he was created pope, the internet was full of images of the both of us next to each other recognizing the likeness," Pryce told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Tracy Smith. "Even one of my sons called and said, 'Daddy, are you the pope?'"
- ("Sunday Morning")
- "The Two Popes" is available to stream at Netflix
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