Is Robert Redford in 'All is Lost' the One to Beat for 2013's Best Actor?
by Joey Magidson
October 18, 2013
By the time you're reading this, J.C. Chandor's sophomore feature All is Lost will be out in theaters. In the coming weeks it'll begin expanding outside of NY & LA and you'll have a chance to see Robert Redford give one of the best performances of the year. The film itself may be a mixed bag (at least for me, though I know I'm in the minority) but Redford is aces and ever since the movie debuted at the Cannes Film Festival he's been tipped as a likely Best Actor nominee. As the race has evolved, it's become clear that not only is he all but guaranteed a nomination now, he could wind up being the one to ultimately win the Oscar in March.
To be sure, he's got a lot of competition. The Best Actor race is completely stacked and you could make the case that the contenders go almost 20 deep. Realistically, there's about a dozen men who will be whittled down to the ultimate five nominees, but it's the type of situation where plenty of worthy gentlemen will be left out in the cold. A quartet of guys are probably safe from that fate, and that includes Redford. The others are Bruce Dern (for Nebraska), Chiwetel Ejiofor (for 12 Years a Slave), and Tom Hanks (for Captain Phillips), but of this group, pundits like myself seem confident in Redford making the cut no matter what.
Why is this? Frankly, a lot has to do with his status as a highly respected veteran without a Best Actor win, aside from the Honorary Oscar he was given in 2002. It shocks some, but he's only been nominated for his acting once (it was Best Actor in a Leading Role for The Sting in 1973, where he lost to Jack Lemmon for Save the Tiger). The older members of the Academy bow before him for his long career, while the younger members respect him for his work in making the Sundance Film Festival into what it is today. Throw in the fact that he's an Oscar winning filmmaker, and he's got multiple facets for the Academy to pull from.
When I wrote about Hanks' candidacy for Captain Phillips, I talked about how I saw him as potentially the frontrunner. This is since Dern and Redford could split the veteran actor vote, leaving Ejiofor and Hanks to duke it out for the win. I still think that this might be the case, but considering how well regarded All is Lost seems to be overall, I'm starting to wonder if Redford is truly the frontrunner, if only a prohibitive one.
What Robert Redford needs more than anything is for All is Lost to get a nomination (or two) somewhere else besides specifically for him. 12 Years a Slave is obviously getting a ton of nods, while Captain Phillips can bank on multiple nominationss as well. Nebraska has other cast members and the film itself in high contention, which helps Dern. Redford though could wind up as the sole representative for the film, much like he's the sole person in the cast. It's just a lot harder, as you might expect.
If All is Lost gets a surprise Best Picture nomination, that could solidify Redford as the one to beat. Without it, he still could pull off the win, but he'd need a bit of history on his side. The last person to win Best Actor while being the only representation for the film at the Academy Awards was Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland in 2006, and that was over a half decade ago. Simply put, it doesn't happen that often.
What remains to be seen is who gets the bulk of the precursor attention. If Dern, Ejiofor, Hanks, Redford, or even someone else like Matthew McConaughey (from Dallas Buyers Club or Mud) starts winning award after award, they could become an unstoppable force of nature leading right up to the Oscars. More likely though, this group of actors will split the precursors to some degree, leaving no one a true frontrunner until the Screen Actors Guild chimes in towards the end of the season (SAG winners are announced January 18th). It could very well be a fight to the finish for this particular Oscar.
In the end, I could still definitely see Ejiofor taking home Best Actor (hell, Dern could still win too), but just like I saw Hanks as a bigger threat than most, I'm starting to warm up to Redford as a likely winner as well. Time will tell, and the precursors and end-of-the-year awards will play a big part, but as much as you shouldn't really count any of the guys mentioned here out, pay special mind to Redford this awards season.