With about 25 contenders being talked about for only 5 noms, Oscar’s lead actress race is among the most challenging. Here’s a quick (alphabetical) look at 5 frontrunners generating the best buzz:
- Cate Blanchett (TÁR – Focus Features): Tour de force performance by Blanchett as composer-conductor Lydia Tár, the first female music director of a major German orchestra. Blanchett (pictured) has won 2 Oscars: lead actress in 2014 for BLUE JASMINE & supporting actress in 2005 for THE AVIATOR. Advantages: critical acclaim (94% on Rotten Tomatoes), real-life character, gender-driven storyline & appeal to European voters.
- Viola Davis (THE WOMAN KING – Sony/TriStar): Unique action film with Davis at its core as General Nanisca, training the next generation of 1800s female warriors to protect the African Kingdom of Dahomey. Davis won 1 Oscar: supporting actress in 2017 for FENCES. Advantages: critical acclaim (95% on RT), diversity, real-life character & gender-driven storyline.
- Danielle Deadwyler (TILL – UAR/MGM/Orion): Deadwyler, as the mother of teenager Emmett Till, who was murdered in a 1955 lynching, vows to expose the racism behind his death & works to see his killers brought to justice. This would be Deadwyler’s first Oscar nom. Advantages: critical acclaim (100% score on RT), diversity, real-life character & gender-driven storyline.
- Michelle Williams (THE FABELMANS – Universal/Amblin): Williams plays Sammy Fabelman’s mom in this bio-drama based in part on director/co-writer Steven Spielberg’s childhood in Arizona. Williams is a 4 time Oscar nominee: supporting actress in 2017 for MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, lead actress in 2012 for MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, lead actress in 2011 for BLUE VALENTINE & supporting actress in 2006 for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Advantages: critical acclaim (94% score on RT), character based on a real person, who’s very well-liked by Academy members.
- Michelle Yeoh (EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE – A24): Action-adventure comedy where Yeoh, as an aging Chinese immigrant, is on a wild adventure trying to save the world by exploring other universes & the lives she could have led. This would be Yeoh’s first Oscar nom. Advantages: critical acclaim (95% on RT), diversity & gender-driven storyline.
As likely as the 5 lead actress frontrunners are to nab noms, others are snapping at their high heels.
- Olivia Colman (EMPIRE OF LIGHT – Searchlight): Colman plays a woman with a complicated past working now at an old cinema in a Southern England coastal town in the early 1980s. When a young man is hired, the two find an unlikely attraction and discover the healing power of movies. Colman’s won one Oscar: lead actress in 2019 for THE FAVOURITE. Advantages: emotionally complex character written for her to play, relationship diversity, gender-driven storyline & appeal to European voters.
- Rooney Mara (WOMEN TALKING – UAR/Orion/Plan B): Mara plays a woman living in an isolated religious community in 2010 who must reconcile reality with faith. Mara’s had two Oscar noms: Supporting actress in 2016 for CAROL & lead actress in 2012 for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Advantages: critical acclaim (88% on RT), gender-driven storyline & appeal to European voters.
- Carey Mulligan (SHE SAID – Universal/Annapurna/Plan B): Mulligan plays NY Times reporter Megan Twohey, who with colleague Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) broke Harvey Weinstein’s sex assault story. Mulligan’s had 2 Oscar noms: lead actress in 2021 for PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN & lead actress in 2010 for AN EDUCATION. Advantages: Gender-driven storyline, real-life character & of interest to Academy members who knew & worked with Weinstein.
- Margo Robbie (BABYLON – Paramount): Robbie stars in a historical dramedy set in the late 1920s when sound’s arrival built new careers & destroyed old ones. Robbie’s had 2 Oscar noms: supporting actress in 2020 for BOMBSHELL & lead actress in 2018 for I, TONYA. Advantage: Appeal to Academy members who over the years have shown how much they love movies about moviemaking.
- Taylor Russell (BONES AND ALL – UAR/MGM): Russell plays a young woman learning to survive on society’s margins. This would be Russell’s first Oscar nom. Advantages: critical acclaim (89% on RT), diversity & gender-driven storyline.