Oscars: Actor Race Favors the Trophy-Less

There’s a school of thought that says actors have to “earn” an Oscar nomination — voters are more likely to reward them if they’ve broken into the exclusive club with a previous nom. While such a theory didn’t apply to this year’s winner, Matthew McConaughey, it certainly doesn’t hurt for people to think a contender is “overdue.” But this year’s unbelievably tight actor race just might be made up of five gentlemen who have never been nominated before.

Right now, there are widely considered to be four likely nominees: Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”), Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) and Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”). None has ever been nominated for an Academy Award.

In the actress race, by contrast, the three frontrunners have a total of 10 nominations among them. Reese Witherspoon, a lock for a nom for “Wild,” won for “Walk the Line.” Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”) has four previous noms, and Amy Adams (“Big Eyes”) has five. Other potential names include two-time winner Hilary Swank (“The Homesman”) and two-time nominee Jessica Chastain (“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” “A Most Violent Year”). Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”) and Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”) seem to be the only first-time nominees in the race.

Being a previous nominee brings cachet — it’s why so many pundits are sure Adams will score a nom, although “Big Eyes” hasn’t yet screened. Redmayne knows about this first-hand: Many felt he deserved to be recognized for his supporting turn in 2012’s “Les Miserables.” Instead, the list of nominees was made up of five previous supporting actor winners.

When it comes to the men, even those vying for the final slot are first-timers: Timothy Spall (“Mr. Turner”), Jack O’Connell (“Unbroken”) and Oscar Isaac (“A Most Violent Year”). It looks like it’s up to Bradley Cooper (of the still-unseen “American Sniper”) or perhaps Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler”) to bring a previous nominee to the race.

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