When the Oscar nominations come out every year, there is a mix of repeat performers and first-time nominees. This year is particularly rich with first time contenders from Riz Ahmed to Helena Zengel.
In fact, there are sixteen strong potential first time nominees among the twenty acting slots. Among the contenders for Best Actor are the afore-mentioned Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal along with Kingsley Ben-Adir in One Night in Miami, the late Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Delroy Lindo in Da 5 Bloods, Tahar Rahim in The Mauritanian and Steven Yeun in Minari. Among the contenders for Best Actress are Andra Day in The United States vs. Billie Holliday, Clare Dunne in Herself and Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman.
Contending for Best Supporting Actor are Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial of the Chicago 7, the late Brian Dennehy in Driveways and Leslie Odom, Jr. in One Night in Miami. Contending for Best Supporting Actress are Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Amanda Seyfried in Mank, Yuh-Jong Yuen in Minari and the previously mentioned Helena Zengel in News of the World.
HERE ARE MINI-PROFILES OF TEN OF THEM
RIZ AHMED in SOUND OF METAL
The 38-year-old London born British-Pakistani actor is no stranger to major awards, having won an Emmy for 2016’s The Night Of. He’s been nominated for various other awards for his big screen performances in 2010’s Four Lions, 2014’s Nightcrawler and 2016’s Rogue One. His portrayal of the heavy metal drummer whose life is thrown into turmoil when he loses his hearing has already won him numerous awards, making him one of the front-runners for this year’s Best Actor Oscar. Next up for him is a new big screen version of Hamlet in which he plays the title role.
KINGSLEY BEN-ADIR in ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI
The 34-year-old London born Jewish English/Trinidadian actor is a veteran of numerous British plays who first drew attention in Mark Rylance’s 2013 Old Vic production of Much Ado About Nothing. He delighted British TV mystery fans as the medical examiner for four seasons of the Brenda Blethyn series, Vera from 2014-2018. In 2019’s he had a major role in the Christmas movie, Noelle with Anna Kendrick and Shirley MacLaine. His biggest and best screen role to date is as Malcom X in Regina King’s film of One Night in Miami.
CHADWICK BOSEMAN in MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
The actor who died of cancer at the age of 42 shortly after completing his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom opposite Viola Davis in 2020, delivers an extraordinary performance that has already won him numerous awards. It was a career topper in a career of many highs including his portrayals of real-life figures Jackie Robinson in 2013’s 42, James Brown in 2014’s Get on Up, Thurgood Marshall in 2017’s Marshall as well as the iconic T’Challa in 2018’s Black Panther. He’s also a Best Supporting Actor contender for Da 5 Bloods.
BRIAN DENNEHY in DRIVEWAYS
The beloved character who died at 81 in 2020 won a SAG Award for the 2000 TV version of Death of a Salesmanfor which he had previously won a Tony for the Broadway version. He picked up a second Tony for the 2003 revival of Long Day’s Journey into Night. His wide range of films ranged from Looking for Mr. Goodbr, to Cocoon to F/X, Ratatouille. He saved the best for last, playing an elderly widower who befriends a young Asian woman and her son who have come to sell the home of her late sister next door in the aptly titled Driveways.
CLARE DUNNE in HERSELF
The 32-year-old Dublin born Irish actress currently resides in Los Angeles where in a normal year she might be out campaigning for major awards. Thus far, the only major recognition she has gotten for her superb portrayal of the fiercely independent single mother in Herself is a nomination Best Actress nomination from the British Independent Film Awards. The film, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, is based on Dunne’s own screenplay, a labor of love that took her five years to complete. With a background on the Irish and British stage, this is only her second film following 2019’s Spider-Man: Far from Home.
VANESSA KIRBY in PIECES OF A WOMAN
The 32-year-old London born British actress came to the attention of British mystery lovers in 2013’s The Hour and expanded her fan base as Stella in a 2014 TV movie of A Streetcar Named Desire opposite Gillian Anderson and Ben Foster. She became a major star with the first two seasons of The Crown in which she played Princess Margaret, earning an Emmy nomination, and winning a BAFTA for her second season performance. She has been nominated for numerous awards for her current portrayal of a woman in emotional turmoil after the death of her infant daughter in Pieces of a Woman.
DELROY LINDO in DA 5 BLOODS
The 68-year-old London born actor, in the U.S. since teens, received his first awards recognition as a Tony nominee for August Wilson’s 1988 play, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. His breakout film role was as the bipolar numbers boss in 1992’s Maclolm X, one of several films he made for director Spike Lee. He received SAG nominations as part of the ensembles of 1995’s Get Shorty and 1999’s The Cider House Rules. Back under Lee’s direction in Da 5 Bloods, his portrayal of the Vietnam vet who returns to that country with three buddies to search for the body of a fifth, has already earned him major awards including Best Actor from the Bew York Film Critics.
LESLIE ODOM, JR. in ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI
The 39-year-old New York born actor was a familiar face on such TV series as Smash and Law and Order SVU in the years leading up to his Tony award-winning portrayal of Aaron Burr in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical, Hamilton. More recently, he has appeared on the big screen in Murder on the Orient Express, Harriet, and most memorably as Sam Cooke, the beloved 1950s and 60s singer, in One Night in Miami for which he is a potential nominee for both Best Supporting Actor and Best Song, “Speak Now”.
AMANDA SEYFRIED in MANK
The 35-year-old Allentown, Pennsylvania native was a fixture in TV roles before her breakout film role as the bride-to-be in 2008’s Mamma Mia! . She had major starring roles in 2010’s Dear John opposite Channing Tatum and Letters to Juliet opposite Gael Garcia Bernal. In 2012, she was nominated for a SAG award and many others as a member of the ensemble of Les Misérables in which she played Hugh Jackman’s daughter. More recently in First Reformed and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, she all but steals the current Mank as the legendary Marion Davies.
HELENA ZENGEL in NEWS OF THE WORLD
The 12-year-old German child star made her full-length film debut in the 2014 TV movie, Spreedwaldkrimi: Mordische Hitze as a five-year-old in 2014. She became the youngest winner ever at the Best Actress award at the German Film Awards for 2019’s System Crasher, her international breakthrough film at the age of ten. She is considered a dark horse for an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for News of the World, her first Hollywood film, opposite Tom Hanks in the western directed by Paul Greengrass for which she has already been nominated for a Golden Globe.