Hollywood Wiretap‘s Pete Hammond dropped this idea in my lap the other day, but I’ve thought about it and he’s dead right: this year’s Best Actor Oscar race is starting to look like it might have some racial flavoring.
Things could change, obviously, but right now it’s looking like two of the stronger Best Actor contenders are African American — The Last King of Scotland‘s Forrest Whitaker and Catch a Fire‘s Derek Luke — and the current betting is that The Pursuit of Happyness star Will Smith will soon join them to make it three. And that’s not counting the distinct possibility of Djimon Honsou getting nominated for his performance in Ed Zwick‘s Blood Diamond. (I read somewhere that he registers more strongly than costar Leonardo DiCaprio.)
I haven’t heard anything trustworthy about Honsou’s performance (has anyone?) and it’s conceivable that Luke might not make the final cut (I would strongly disgaree with that but it’s early in the game and who knows?), but Whitaker and Smith are probable lock-downs. But if all four are nominated it could be a bit of a tinderbox. By which I mean it’s going to look a little bit gnarly for the Academy if a white actor — Peter O’Toole, say — wins the Best Actor Oscar with four African Americans vying for the same prize. Think about it. It’ll certainly look that way to some.
It’s a little early to get into this without anyone having seen Blood Diamond or The Pursuit of Happyness (I’m hearing that Columbia may be thinking about showing the Smith film sooner rather than later), but it’s something to keep in mind as things evolve.