Oscars 2011: Colin Firth Has 70% Chance of Winning Best Actor

Following on from my piece concerning the Best Picture statistics here is a look at some stats for the Best Lead Actor category and how they may favour or hinder this year's five nominees. THE AGE GAME: Adrien Brody is the only man in history to win this category under the age of thirty with his 2003 lead actor Oscar for The Pianist. Two thirty year olds have also won the prize with Marlon Brando's 1954 win for On the Waterfont and Richard Dreyfuss's 1977 win for The Goodbye Girl. This statistic does not bode well for nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg who is just twenty seven years of age and would become the category's youngest ever winner were he to triumph on the night. It is also not a great piece of foreshadowing for the thirty two year old nominee James Franco. The average age of the lead actor Oscar winner in the past ten years is 44. At forty one years of age Javier Bardem is closest to this figure. THE PLIGHT OF THE DEFENDING CHAMPION: With his nomination for True Grit, Jeff Bridges becomes the ninth man to defend the lead actor Oscar after his win for Crazy Heart last year. Unfortunately for him there have only ever been two back to back winners of this prize with Spencer Tracy's wins in 1936 and 1937 and Tom Hanks 93 and 94 double for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Russell Crowe was heavily expected to defend his Oscar in 2002 for A Beautiful Mind but his violent behaviour at that year's Bafta ceremony where he ended up shoving Bafta director Malcolm Gerrie against a wall due to his speech being cut short, an action which most likely cost him dearly at that year's Academy Awards. THE SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS: Only four of the seventeen screen actors guild winners in the lead actor category failed to go on to claim Oscar glory which bodes well for the 2011 SAG winner Colin Firth. There was an odd four year streak between 2001 and 2004 where the Oscars differentiated in this category from the Screen Actors Guild with Russell Crowe, Daniel Day Lewis and Johnny Depp picking up SAG awards but losing out on Oscar night and Benicio Del Toro being rewarded with an Academy Award in the supporting category. Of this year's five Oscar nominees only Javier Bardem was lacking a SAG nomination. Unfortunately no actor has ever won a lead actor Oscar whilst lacking a nomination at the Screen Actors Guild. Records were made to be broken but this is still not a very promising sign. SHADES OF GRAY: While the Academy used to love rewarding warm and likeable heroes the past twenty years has seen them hand out statuettes to a number of performances that reflect characters with shades of gray and who are in some cases distinctly flawed and detestable. For evidence of this see Daniel Day Lewis in There will Be Blood, Forest Whitaker for his portrayal of barbaric dictator Idi Amin in the Last King of Scotland, Philip Seymour Hoffman as the talented but unlikeable writer Truman Capote and Denzel Washington for his villainous role in Training Day. Fifty years ago Jesse Eisenberg's somewhat unnerving and creepy portrayal may have given him little chance of prospering but today he may stand more of a chance. THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE FACTOR: Actors don't usually fare well in this category when nominated for a performance in a foreign language film. Roberto Benigni's win for Life is Beautiful remains the only lead actor winning performance not in the English language. This isn't a promising sign for Javier Bardem who leads the foreign language movie Butiful. SHARING THE SPOILS: The last time a film prevailed in the Best Picture and Lead Actor categories was in 2000 with Gladiator. Since then no film has managed to take home both awards which could be slightly worrying news for Colin Firth given that The King's Speech is the heavy Best Picture favourite. In the past twenty years only four actors have managed a win in a film lacking a Best Picture nomination. This occured last year with Jeff Bridge's win for Crazy Heart, in 2006 when Forest Whitaker won for The Last King of Scotland, in 1995 when Nicolas Cage won for Leaving Las Vegas and in 1993 when Tom Hanks won for Philadelphia. This low percentage again doesn't bode too well for Bardem given that Biutiful is lacking a Best Picture nomination. THE FIRST TIME NOMINEE: The Academy have no problems handing out this award to first time nominees with fifteen of the last thirty winners prevailing for their first leading actor nomination. This is an encouraging statistic for both Jesse Eisenberg and James Franco who are the only two nominees who haven't been selected for this category before. FACT VERSUS FICTION: The Oscars have shown strong support in the past for performances based on real life characters with Sean Penn's win as Harvey Milk, Forest Whitaker as Imi Admin, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, and Jamie Foxx as Ray all prevailing in recent years. Eleven of the past thirty winners of this category have been based on real life people which is potentially good news for this year's nominees Colin Firth, Jesse Eisenberg and James Franco. THE DISABILITY FACTOR: It is no myth that the Oscars have a long history of heavily rewarding performers who play characters with a disability. The last actor nominated for such a role was Jamie Foxx for his portrayal of blind musician Ray Charles and he proceeded to win the Oscar. Geoffrey Rush also won his role as pianist David Helfgott who suffered severe mental breakdowns in the film Shine and then of course there are the wins for Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. There are exceptions such as Sean Penn's loss for I Am Sam but being nominated for a disabled performance is usually a heavy indicator of Oscar success. This of course favours Colin Firth who has to attempt to overcome an intense stutter in The King's Speech. Based on these stats and 2011 awards form I have distributed each nominee's chance as a percentage. 70% - Colin Firth - Screen Actors Guild Award winner winning every other accolade under the sun, based on a real life person and a royal to boot and in a role with a crippling disability which he has to try to fight and overcome. This performance just screams Oscar. 15% - Jeff Bridges - Actors don't have a good history of defending this prize and Bridges beating Firth two years in a row seems unlikely. True Grit has performed well commercially however and its a role that has prevailed at the Oscars before. 10% - Jesse Eisenberg - Less warm and accesible performances have become far more honoured in the past decade of the Oscars although the ceremony have only ever rewarded one actor in this category under the age of thirty. That alone makes the twenty seven year old actor's chances slim at best. 4% - James Franco - Can you imagine a host picking up a prestigious Oscar in between doing comedy and musical numbers? Neither can I. 1% - Javier Bardem - This will be the most unseen performance not to mention the fact that it is a lead role in a foreign language film. Seems very unlikely even though Bardem is a previous Oscar winner and there is the sympathy factor given that the character he plays is suffering from cancer.
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