Imagine that you’re 28 years younger and that Gold Derby is a popular weekly print publication (a Los Angeles Times supplement) in 1991, and you, the editor, are printing your first issue of “the season” in late September. Insiders and ticket-buyers alike raved about The Silence of the Lambs earlier this year, and in your mind there’s no question that Anthony Hopkins‘ riveting portrayal as Hannibal Lecter will be a leading contender for Best Actor.
But then comes word that strategists for Orion Pictures, the distributor, don’t think Hopkins can reasonably compete for the Best Actor Oscar — that his screen time only amounts to 15 minutes or less, and that his proper designation is as a Best Supporting Actor nominee. Hopkins, in their view, has delivered menace and flair and a vivid personality, but not a lead performance.
Being a man of the people and a guy of excellent instincts as far as Oscar prospects are concerned, you’re naturally flabbergasted that Orion is thinking this way. The question is “what do you do?” Do you meekly go along with Orion’s curious assessment, or do you challenge them in the court of public opinion by saying “wait, hold on…Hopkins is galvanizing in The Silence of the Lambs…he owns that film, regardless of how much screen time he has…due respect but you guys really need to re-think this.”
The exact same situation is manifesting right now in the matter of Tom Hanks‘ performance in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The question is, what will Tom O’Neill do? Because everyone in Toronto has said the same thing, which is that regardless of whether Fred Rogers is a lead or supporting role, Hanks owns that film completely. When he’s off-screen, the movie sags. In other words, Fred Rogers is the new Hannibal Lecter.
Right now Gold Derby is only allowing Oscar experts to vote for Hanks in the Best Supporting Actor category. Does it make any sense to anyone that Sony would want to push both Hanks and Once Upon A Time in Hollywood‘s Brad Pitt for the same Supporting Actor Oscar? Against each other under the same studio shingle? In my book the trophy is Pitt’s to lose.