As the early rumblings of the Oscar race begin with the conclusion of Toronto and the kickoff of NYFF, Netflix is starting to set their chess pieces up for a strategic and boastful awards season. In an exclusive to Variety, Netflix has confirmed the decision to campaign, Delroy Lindo, the star of “Da 5 Bloods” from Spike Lee, in lead actor for the upcoming Academy Awards.
The 67-year-old actor has been a fixture of film and television for four decades, counting more than 40 screen credits to his name. With two career SAG nominations as part of a cast ensemble (“Get Shorty” and “The Cider House Rules”), Lindo has never received his proper recognition despite standout roles in films such as “Malcolm X.”
In “Da 5 Bloods,” Lindo plays Paul, a Vietnam veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who travels back to Vietnam in search of the remains of his fallen squad leader. There had been debates among critics and strategists on where Lindo should campaign for the Oscars, as some felt the film was more of an ensemble with no definitive lead. As the movie follows the soldiers on their perilous journey back to the war country, Paul takes center stage, with more screentime than his co-stars — as the focal point of the story.
Co-writer and director Spike Lee has teamed with Lindo many times over his career, including “Clockers” and “Crooklyn.” His role in “Da 5 Bloods” reunites the pair for the first time in 25 years. If Lindo manages to successfully maneuver an upcoming strange and unpredictable awards season, he would be the fourth actor of a Spike Lee joint to receive a nomination from the Academy. He would follow the late Danny Aiello (“Do the Right Thing”), Denzel Washington (“Malcolm X”) and Adam Driver (“BlacKkKlansman”), none of which won their respective categories.
In the lead actor race, Lindo will be facing off against other Hollywood veterans such as Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) and Gary Oldman (“Mank”), both of which have won best actor previously, with others sure to enter the race in the coming months.
Co-stars Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. and Chadwick Boseman will all campaign in supporting actor. Boseman, who passed away in August due to colon cancer, will have two performances in contention this year. Along with “Da 5 Bloods,” Boseman has a role in the upcoming “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” from George C. Wolfe, also distributed by Netflix. Starring alongside Academy Award winner Viola Davis, no decisions have been finalized on Boseman’s category placement as conversations are ongoing on whether he should campaign in lead or supporting categories. The role, originally played by Charles S. Dutton on Broadway in 1984, was nominated for a Tony award in featured actor in a play.
“Da 5 Bloods” was initially set to debut out-of-competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where Lee was set to be the first Black jury president. The festival was ultimately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Netflix will have other campaign decisions to make regarding their very robust film slate. Internal discussions are still occurring regarding all the men from Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Jesse Plemons in “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” and Shia LeBeouf in the recently purchased “Pieces of a Woman,” if released this year.
Watch out for Lindo on the circuit.