Who stands to win Best Actor at the 2020 Oscars ceremony? As anticipation continues to build, we're looking at six A-listers who might be in with a shot.
1. Joaquin Phoenix
The clear frontrunner for Best Actor is Phoenix, whose engrossing portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime brought the house down at the Venice Film Festival.
Phoenix has built a reputation for transformative and intense portrayals, and the gritty new Joker movie plays right into his wheelhouse. Devoid of comic book bombast, it is instead a troubling story of mental collapse and how vulnerable people transform into monsters, allowing Phoenix to venture into emotional and physical extremes.
From the piercing laugh to the shocking weight loss, the heartbreaking sense of a lonely man losing his way to the chilling viciousness of his eventual Joker persona, critics agree this is a performance that once seen, is never forgotten.
Should he clinch Best Actor, it will make history for comic book cinema, although given there's been a sea change in recent years (Black Panther nominated for Best Picture; Logan for Best Adapted Screenplay), it's perhaps not far-fetched as it seems.
Joker is released on 4th October.
2. Ansel Elgort
Only marginally less anguished than Phoenix's Joker is Ansel Elgort's character Theo Decker from The Goldfinch. And with good reason: in this multi-generational story, Theo comes of age in the midst of a deadly New York art gallery bombing that kills his beloved mother. In the aftermath, Theo steals a priceless Dutch painting known as The Goldfinch, and it comes to act as a reminder of his mother's presence.
Elgort has delivered charismatic turns in the likes of The Fault in Our Stars and Baby Driver, but he's never pushed himself quite like this. As those who've read Donna Tartt's book will know, the character is forced to navigate heartbreaking currents of grief and loss, which no doubt makes the role a demanding one for the incumbent actor.
It's always encouraging seeing a star go out of their comfort zone and immerse us in a complex character. This is uncharted territory for Elgort and if he can do justice to Tartt's beleaguered protagonist, expect him to be likeable, difficult and empathetic by turns.
The Goldfinch is released on 27th September.
3. Jamie Foxx
In 2004, Jamie Foxx clinched an Oscar for his uncanny portrayal of musician Ray Charles in Ray. Will he make it a twofer with his moving performance in legal drama Just Mercy?
The movie is based on the real life story of lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a Harvard graduate who has devoted his life to representing those on Death Row. Foxx dials back his usual brash charisma to play devastated and introspective convict Waller McMillian, a murder suspect whom Stevenson comes to support.
The presence of heavyweights Jordan and Foxx above the title may make this a tricky one for the Academy to judge. Will they punt one of the stars into the Supporting Actor category to avoid pitting them against one another in the Best Actor field?
It remains to be seen, but judging from early critical reactions, Foxx's performance is strong enough to go the distance.
Just Mercy is released on 24th January 2020.
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4. Brad Pitt
If one actor is currently having a moment, it's Brad Pitt. Fresh from his funky and funny performance in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (where we reckon he might have a shot at Best Supporting Actor), the veteran star dominates powerful sci-fi drama Ad Astra.
Critics at the Venice Film Festival were unanimous in their praise for Pitt's performance, which many have lauded as a career-best. He plays astronaut Roy McBride who embarks on an interstellar voyage to discover the whereabouts of his missing father Cliff (Tommy Lee Jones).
Pitt's depiction of an introverted loner who emotionally unravels on an epic voyage through the cosmos is said to be resonant and relatable. He's at the heart of a movie that uses a fantastical conceit to explore father-son relationships, and given the enthusiastic reactions, he's surely in line for a Best Actor nod.
Ad Astra is released on 18th September.
5. Leonardo DiCaprio
Here's another complicated one: who deserves Best Actor recognition in Quentin Tarantino's ninth movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood? The film is a kaleidoscopic, romanticised and ultimately shocking depiction of the cultural shifts in 1969-era Tinseltown, and hinges on the charming relationship between reliable stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.
DiCaprio is self-loathing actor Rick Dalton, who has been pigeonholed as a regular on TV Westerns at the expense of a film career. Pitt is his far more zen stunt-double Cliff Booth – in fact, he's more a confidante, friend and driver. Will the on-screen dynamic, whereby Dalton takes precedence and Booth calmly supports from the sidelines, mirror the film's possible narrative at the Oscars?
We reckon so – rather than pit these two Hollywood heavyweights against one another in the Best Actor category, the Academy may instead split the vote between Best Actor for DiCaprio and Best Supporting Actor for Pitt. After all, both performances are terrific, and the last thing Oscar voters want is for these two veterans to cancel each other out.
6. Taron Egerton
Back in May, actor Taron Egerton drew unanimous acclaim for his portrayal of Elton John in Rocketman, and it's not hard to see why. The flamboyant John has been open in addressing the drug-fuelled acrimony and excess that accompanied his rise to fame, and Egerton's performance is commendably honest.
In fact, it's a portrayal that regularly invites revulsion, even as we celebrate the actor's remarkable ability to mimic John's mellifluous voice and stage presence. Above all, it's a deeply empathetic, complex turn that understands both the appeal of John's music and the risks that come with a rise to A-list stardom.
Director Dexter Fletcher's self-described "musical fantasy" already has a lot to recommend it (the floating 'Crocodile Rock' sequence is a standout), but Egerton's skill is the glue that holds everything together.
Which of these actors do you think will be nominated for an Oscar? Let us know @Cineworld. The 92nd Academy Awards get underway on 9th February 2020.