Even though we already have put the 90th Academy Awards behind us, who says it’s too early to look ahead? There’s a wide range of films and performances that could make a dent in the upcoming awards season and it’s fun to create early speculation. But for this post, we will take a look at what the Best Actress category has to offer.
First up, we’ll look at those who have a trophy on their mantle yet could still throw their hat back in the awards ring.
Respected actress Viola Davis took home her long overdue Oscar in Best Supporting Actress for Fences and it looks like she could make her return to the ceremony with the heist thriller Widows for director Steve McQueen and screenwriter Gillian Flynn. The story involves four bank robbers who are killed in a fatal heist and it is up to their wives to finish the job. The wives are played by Davis, Cynthia Erivo, Elizabeth Debicki, and Michelle Rodriguez. The only big question is not just whether the product is any good but whether or not it is a true ensemble piece with no true lead. But if any actress in the main quartet goes Lead, it’ll likely be Davis given her stature.
Then there’s Cate Blanchett who has teamed up with Richard Linklater for the film adaptation of the comedy novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette? where Blanchett plays a misanthropic agoraphobe who goes missing, leaving it up to her daughter to try and find her. Much like Viola Davis in Widows, this seems like another situation where we don’t know whether she is the main lead since it’s about her character’s daughter in pursuit of her. But Blanchett’s star power is big enough for her to constitute a potential Lead push. Plus, she is playing the title character after all.
When Tully screened back at Sundance, previous winner Charlize Theron won some of the best reviews of her career for her portrayal of a mother who forms a bond with the babysitter of her children played by Mackenzie Davis. The last time Theron was nominated was for North Country back in 2005 and she’s been on the cusp of a third nomination with both Young Adult and Mad Max: Fury Road. If the film can overcome its April release date, we’ll see if Theron can finally return to Oscar’s good graces.
Speaking of previous winners looking to make an Oscar comeback, Rachel Weisz has been on the hunt for her second nomination since winning Supporting Actress for The Constant Gardener. She was in the mix in Best Actress for The Deep Blue Sea back in 2012, having garnered a Golden Globe nomination, but didn’t make much of a dent beyond that. But we’ll see if the upcoming lesbian romance Disobedience or the historical biopic The Favourite opposite Olivia Colman and Emma Stone could end her awards drought.
As for other past winners making a possible play, there’s Nicole Kidman who stars in the crime thriller Destroyer, Natalie Portman as a pop star in Vox Lux if it’s completed on time, and Penelope Cruz for the Spanish psychological thriller Everybody Knows from Asghar Farhadi.
Now onto those that are members of the Oscar club that haven’t quite gotten their due.
Coming off of the billion dollar hit Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, previous Best Actress nominee Felicity Jones will throw her hat back in the Oscar ring with On The Basis Of Sex where she plays Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The film will follow Ginsburg’s life from her struggle for equal rights to when she became Justice of the Supreme Court.
After bursting onto the scene with An Education which garnered her a Best Actress nomination, Carey Mulligan has churned out quality work in films like Shame and Mudbound but hasn’t garnered another nomination despite making good on her early promise. However, that could change with Wildlife, the directorial debut of Paul Dano which premiered at Sundance. As Jeanette, a mother living in 1960s Montana who deals with the abandonment of her husband played by Jake Gyllenhaal, Mulligan has garnered some of the best reviews of her career. In his review of the film, Vulture’s David Edelstein says that An Education may be her star is born moment, yet “Jeanette is her true big-screen breakthrough.”
Another actress who had a well-lauded performance out of Sundance was 2-time nominee Keira Knightley for the period drama Colette where she plays Gabrielle Sidonie Colette, a woman who realized her passion for writing when she traveled to Paris with her husband named Willy (Dominic West). But as she started writing novels that Willy took credit for, Colette became determined to escape her husband’s dominance. Not only is it said to have a great performance from its leading lady but a story involving a woman standing up to a man who has silenced her could not be more timely since the film has premiered in the midst of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement.
With 3 nominations under her belt, 23-year old Saoirse Ronan already seems inches away from her first Oscar win. One performance that could land her the coveted trophy is Mary, Queen Of Scots where she plays the titular role. The film follows Mary, Queen Of Scots and her struggle to try and overthrow her rival Queen Elizabeth I, played by Margot Robbie, to claim the English throne. She had to have been a runner-up in Best Actress for the Best Picture nominated Brooklyn and Lady Bird for which she won a Golden Globe in Best Actress-Musical Or Comedy. Could her time finally come?!
Toni Collette, one of the best actresses working today, only has one Oscar nomination under her belt which feels quite wrong if you ask me. Thankfully, with her performance in the apparently gonzo horror drama Hereditary that got raves out of Sundance, she just might get her first nomination since The Sixth Sense back in 1999. The word “horror” might provide caution due to the Academy’s rocky relationship with the genre. But if the critics come to her aide and the film becomes a sleeper hit, we’ll see what happens.
After wowing critics and audiences with her Oscar nominated turn as the villainous Amazing Amy in Gone Girl, Rosamund Pike could make her return with Radioactive where she plays famed scientist Marie Curie. The film is currently shooting but if it makes it to the end of this year, Pike might become a formidable threat since she also has the biopic A Private War where she plays war photographer Marie Colvin to help her cause, allowing her to prove that her Gone Girl nomination wasn’t just a fluke.
Lastly, there’s perhaps the most overdue actress working today: Ms. Glenn Close. She currently has a 0-6 record and is at a point where the next time she is in the running, she might just win out. But if she’s competitive this year, what performance will it be for? Well, The Wife had a mixed-to-positive response out of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival but if the film adaptation of the Sunset Boulevard musical ever goes into production and comes out at the end of this year, this could be a “Viola Davis in Fences” type deal where it’s over before it even begins since she’s an overdue actress playing a role she previously won a Tony for.
But what about some new blood that could break into this category?
After Alicia Vikander made her breakthrough back in 2015, it looks like her Man From U.N.C.L.E. co-star Elizabeth Debicki will try to replicate her breakthrough success since she’s in five films this year: The ensemble heist film Widows, the sexual assault biopic The Tale which made waves at Sundance, The Cloverfield Paradox, Peter Rabbit, and the film that looks like her most likely Oscar play: Vita and Virginia where she’ll play famed author Virginia Woolf. Playing Virginia Woolf worked wonders for fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman who won an Oscar for her portrayal. Can similar magic happen here? In fact, can she replicate Alicia Vikander’s 2015 breakthrough? We’ll see. It all depends on whether or not her co-star Gemma Arterton has the bigger lead role.
Emily Blunt is an actress who has constantly been on the cusp of getting her first nomination yet keeps ending up short. Even after overcoming the negative reviews of The Girl On The Train to land a SAG and BAFTA nomination, she still got no Oscar nod for her troubles. While the upcoming horror film A Quiet Place might not do much damage, her best hope for Oscar glory this year will be the musical Mary Poppins Returns. She’s proven she can sing thanks to Into The Woods and she’s tackling the famous role that Julie Andrews won an Oscar for. Fingers crossed that her time finally comes.
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins’ first feature after the Best Picture winner Moonlight, is set to come out this year and if that delivers, newcomer Kiki Layne could be a threat to land a “breakthrough discovery” nomination in the style of Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone or Ruth Negga in Loving.
Here are my pre-Premature top ten predictions for the 2019 Best Actress category:
- Saoirse Ronan, Mary, Queen Of Scots
- Felicity Jones, On The Basis Of Sex
- Viola Davis, Widows
- Kiki Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk
- Carey Mulligan, Wildlife
- Keira Knightley, Colette
- Elizabeth Debicki, Vita and Virginia
- Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns
- Cate Blanchett, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
- Rosamund Pike, Radioactive
What do you guys think? Out of all these performances, which would you say has the best shot at making it in at this stage and is there anyone you felt was left off? Please share your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!!