Adrien Brody (The Pianist)

Best Actor

2003 wins: Boston Film Critics, National Society of Film Critics

Oscar pedigree: None

Brody on his preparation: “I had to lose 30 pounds. I encouraged loneliness and the one thing that helped me out of that was the piano playing. I had to learn it and it helped to transport me elsewhere.”

What we said: “Quietly watching what’s going on, acting decisively when need be, obviously horrified by his family’s fate but never losing his grip, Wladyslaw is mostly a reactive character, and Brody gives an admirably restrained reading of the man. He’s able to convey what’s important mostly with his eyes, which seem to assume a naturally sad, wistful look in repose.” — Todd McCarthy (May 26)

What the others said: “In the center is the modulated intensity of Adrien Brody in the title role. Szpilman falls from his perch of cultured privilege to the abject scramble of staying alive. But Brody never once sanctifies the struggle or allows the pianist to deserve any more or less awe from us than any of the 6 million others whose stories Polanski might also have told with equal respect.”

— Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

This could be the night: Brody’s physical transformation to a gaunt, emaciated survivor — and ability to master the piano — is no less than startling.

Then comes the rub: It’s a tough race against Acad faves Caine, Nicholson and Day-Lewis.

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