Moviegoers far outside of Hollywood might think that the Oscar actually goes to the “best performance,” whatever that is. But those on the circuit know the award doesn’t always correlate with the nominated performance. Other factors include the idea that an actor is “due,” how well the film scores financially and, of course, likability.
Jean Dujardin, for example, was tireless in working the circuit, and always came off as funny, outgoing and self-effacing, despite heavy competition from a field that included George Clooney.
So far this year, the best charm offensive has been waged by Eddie Redmayne, who plays Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” It’s a fantastic, transformative performance that could win the best actor statue on its own merits. But helping the situation is the fact that Redmayne is almost ridiculously endearing.
Working against Redmayne is the fact that he faces some stiff competition, and is perceived as the newcomer of the group. But at a SAG Q&A last week, the thesp received a standing ovation, and the more he talked about the research he did into ALS, the more it became apparent he was no amateur. He’s a trained, Tony-winning actor who threw his heart and soul into a role he felt great responsibility for. At several points, he became visibly emotional talking about meeting with people suffering from ALS and their families.
At this point, the perceived actor frontrunner is Michael Keaton, well-received for “Birdman.” But Keaton has been shooting a film and has been largely unable to press the flesh. Some at the Redmayne Q&A, who had seen Keaton speak recently, remarked on the night-and-day difference between the two thesps.
While many have speculated on how much Q&As can sway voters, it certainly can’t hurt when an admirable performance meshes with a likable individual. And in a race this tight, every ounce of charm helps.