From Colman Domingo to Saoirse Ronan, an early look at which actors and directors might win awards in 2024
After the unlikely success of Everything Everywhere All at Once at this year’s Oscars ceremony (a film that wasn’t viewed as a contender pre-release, premiering at the fanboy-led SXSW film festival and seen on paper as too genre to be Academy fodder), it might seem dumber than ever to look ahead to 2024’s race, William Goldman’s famous “nobody knows anything” quote coming to mind.
But as a foolishly unstoppable annual tradition of ours, here are 10 big names that could be either nominees or winners anyway because maybe somebody knows something …
If all had been fair, which at the Oscars of course it historically always has been, Jonathan Majors would have been in this season’s best actor race for his moving, magnetic portrayal of the US navy’s first Black aviator in the frustratingly underseen wartime drama Devotion. But the on-the-rise actor (who has had two back-to-back hits already this year with Ant-Man and Creed sequels) had to make do with presenting duties this past weekend, something that could see a levelling up this time next year with his undeniable, all-consuming performance in the gritty character study Magazine Dreams. The film premiered at Sundance to mostly strong reviews and even the sniffier ones all agreed on one thing, that as a socially withdrawn, psychologically unravelling bodybuilder, Majors is monumental. With the film snapped up by Searchlight, it’s hard to see a 2024 ceremony without him in contention.
During his Hollywood heyday, it felt as if Cillian Murphy was always just one role away from being elevated into the awards conversation, adding texture to genre fare from 28 Days Later to Red Eye to Batman Begins and working with directors such as Ken Loach, Anthony Minghella and Christopher Nolan. It turned out that his most defining role was to come on the small screen instead, leading the increasingly popular crime drama Peaky Blinders, but he’s being brought back to the multiplex by longtime collaborator Nolan, gifting him with the lead in his grand summer epic Oppenheimer. The biopic of “father of the atomic bomb” J Robert Oppenheimer has a stacked cast which also includes Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr, Rami Malek and Kenneth Branagh so acting nominations could go anywhere but it feels like it’s primed for both a Murphy win and a re-appreciation, following on from a record year for Irish talent.
After mistakenly making an early prediction that she might be nominated for her supporting role in Amazon’s compelling yet little-seen drama The Report, I might not be the best at guessing how and when Annette Bening will get recognised by the Academy. But her next role seems like a far surer thing, a Netflix biopic of daring swimmer Diana Nyad, who at the age of 64 became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida, a 110-mile journey filled with peril. It’s the narrative debut from Oscar-winning Free Solo film-makers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai, who know a thing or two about wringing suspense out of extreme sports, and co-stars Rhys Ifans and Oscar winner Jodie Foster.
Colman Domingo has slowly become one of those quietly brewing supporting actors who keeps threatening to become more of a household name with small but effective and extremely versatile turns in Zola, If Beale Street Could Talk, Euphoria and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. More substantive lead roles have mostly eluded him but this year will see that change with Domingo re-teaming with the Ma Rainey director George C Wolfe for Rustin, a Netflix drama that sees him take on the title role of Bayard Rustin, a vital figure in the fight for civil rights back in the 60s. The activist worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr but because of his homosexuality, he often acted behind-the-scenes before becoming an outspoken gay rights activist in the 80s. It’s fascinating stuff on paper and given how sorely underrepresented Black queer voices from history have been on screen, it could make for a groundbreaking Oscar contender. Domingo also has a supporting role in the adaptation of The Color Purple musical, a project that also has major potential.
Predicting yet more Academy recognition for an actor who has received four nominations before the age of 30 is not exactly sticking one’s neck out but after three years and three films that didn’t quite spark in the intended way, Ronan has three potential projects in just one year to impress voters, all of which intrigue in vastly different ways. The most likely to break into the race is Steve McQueen’s splashy second world war drama Blitz, a major project for Apple, which sees Ronan and Triangle of Sadness’s Harris Dickinson play Londoners during an aerial bombing. Ronan will also star with recent nominee Paul Mescal in Foe, a sci-fi thriller from Garth Davis, director of Lion, based on the best-selling book by Iain Reid, writer of I’m Thinking of Ending Things, described as another “philosophical suspense story”. Finally, she’ll be playing a recovering alcoholic in The Outrun, based on the memoir by Amy Liptrot.
At every Sundance, there’s usually one thing that most attendees can agree on – Anthony Hopkins’ performance in The Father will win him another Oscar, Promising Young Woman and Get Out will briefly break the internet and Amazon shouldn’t have paid that much for Brittany Runs a Marathon – and this January, it was that playwright-turned-film-maker Celine Song’s heartbreaking romance Past Lives is going to remain one of 2023’s greatest achievements. The film, starring Greta Lee and Teo Yoo, follows childhood sweethearts at three periods in their lives, fatefully linked but cosmically unlucky. It was hard to find a dry eye at its rapturous premiere and Song, as writer and director, has shown herself to be one of the most exciting new talents on the scene, wisely ushered by A24, and one can see her receiving Academy plaudits for at the very least her elegantly crushing script.
The critically adored crime drama Mare of Easttown brought Kate Winslet back into the awards conversation after a string of misfires, from the sappy fantasy Collateral Beauty to Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel to the romantic adventure The Mountain Between Us, and showed a new, or at least resurfaced, side to the actor, choosing underplayed naturalism over showier excess. The little-seen Ammonite gave us more of the same and this year, after a role in recent best picture nominee Avatar: The Way of Water, the actor will star as Vogue model turned second world war photographer Lee Miller in cinematographer-turned-director Ellen Kuras’s high-profile biopic Lee. With such ripe subject matter and a cast that also includes the Oscar winner Marion Cotillard and recent Oscar nominee Andrea Riseborough, expect a major fall festival premiere and a campaign to get Winslet her second Oscar.
For all of its commercial and critical success, there was the distinct feeling that A Star is Born’s star, co-writer and director Bradley Cooper didn’t quite receive enough recognition for such an out-of-the-blue achievement. It was arguably his greatest performance but the actor lost out on the Oscar to Bohemian Rhapsody’s far-less-deserving Rami Malek, an injustice that might be somewhat softened with his next project as multi-hyphenate. He’s taking on the life of conductor Leonard Bernstein in Maestro, again wearing multiple hats, starring alongside Carey Mulligan as his wife Felicia Montealegre. The Academy has historically loved to reward straight actors for going gay (just this year, Brendan Fraser showed that to be true) and with a mammoth producing trio of Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Todd Phillips, expect big things.
While his best supporting actor nomination for Judas and the Black Messiah might have been a shock (he was campaigned as the film’s lead and hadn’t been in contention at other ceremonies that season), it was a happy sort of shock, the latest impressive performance from an actor quietly assembling a knockout résumé. For his next film, he’s re-teaming with the Harder They Fall director Jeymes Samuel for the ambitious-sounding drama The Book of Clarence. Inspired by biblical epics such as The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, Stanfield will play a man in AD29, looking to capitalise on the rise of Jesus. Given that those aforementioned classics scored 12 Oscars and another seven nominations between them, it’s certainly a genre the Academy has historically been drawn to and with Stanfield joined by former nominees Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard and Marianna Jean-Baptiste, it could well lead to a resurgence.
It’s never not wise to bet on Martin Scorsese at the Oscars, the film-maker’s past work amassing 91 nominations and 20 wins between them. But for all of this recognition, he’s also famously used to seeing much-nominated films go home with nothing (both Gangs of New York and The Irishman went in with 10 nods each and left with zero wins). Big things are expected from his next, fact-based crime drama Killers of the Flower Moon, which some had thought might be out last year, but is predicted to make its debut at the Cannes film festival. It tells the tale of murdered members of the Osage tribe in north-eastern Oklahoma and the FBI investigation then launched with a packed cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone, John Lithgow and recent winner Brendan Fraser.