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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Benjamin Lee

Oscars 2025: who might be in the running for next year’s awards?

Marianne Jean-Baptiste in Hard Truths
Marianne Jean-Baptiste in Hard Truths. Photograph: Bleecker Street

While there were other narratives considered during the long journey to the stage, this year’s Oscars ultimately reminded us that the most obvious is usually worth sticking with. Oppenheimer announced itself as hard-to-beat, not just upon its record-breaking release but in the long buildup, enough for us to predict Cillian Murphy as a best actor contender a year prior.

It’s back to the same silly game as we look forward to next year’s ceremony and try to predict who might be in the conversation. Here goes nothing:

Kieran Culkin

After beating out Succession co-stars Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox to become the most awarded male cast member of the final season, Kieran Culkin looks set to follow it all up with an equally impressive awards run on the big screen. At this year’s Sundance, his turn in Jesse Eisenberg’s crowd-pleasing comedy drama A Real Pain was singled out as an early contender, playing the charming yet exhausting cousin of The Social Network nominee’s more introverted lead. It’s an extremely to-type performance but in a way that will probably appeal to voters and with Searchlight nabbing it for a hefty price out of Utah, expect a splashy campaign.

Steve McQueen

Back in 2014, British artist-turned-film-maker Steve McQueen became the first Black director to win a best picture Oscar for his astonishing drama 12 Years a Slave and while his follow-up Widows didn’t receive the success it so deserved, it showed him to be equally adept in a more commercial realm. On the small screen, his anthology series Small Axe pushed him into a different awards conversation and now with his next film, it looks like he might be returning to the Oscar stage. His second world war drama Blitz, starring four-time nominee Saoirse Ronan, is set to be Apple’s big bet for next year’s season, covering a period of history voters gravitate towards, but brought to life by a director with more artfulness and tact than the norm.

Angelina Jolie

It had seemed for a while that we’d lost Angelina Jolie, the actor. The Oscar-winner had devoted more and more off-screen time to her many humanitarian efforts, her work as director had captivated her too (far more than it had captivated critics) and her only real visibility on-screen had been in movie star franchise fare like Maleficent 2 or Eternals. But this year we’ll get a reminder of her once-undeniable screen presence as she takes on the role of Maria Callas in Pablo Larraín’s Maria. The Chilean film-maker has a history of ushering female stars to best actress noms, helping both Natalie Portman and Kristen Stewart deliver Oscar-nominated performances in the biopics Jackie and Spencer.

Barry Keoghan

After receiving his first nomination last year for The Banshees of Inisherin, Barry Keoghan became an even more visible presence during this most recent awards season. Despite not making the cut for his performance in Saltburn, a film that was rightfully shunned by the Academy, Keoghan was out front and centre, a magnet for memes and a red carpet darling. Emerald Fennell’s tiresome provocation might have traded on excess but Keoghan’s next film should do the opposite, the actor starring alongside the Passages breakout Franz Rogowski in Andrea Arnold’s Bird. Details are scarce – it was shot in Kent last summer, it focuses on the “fringes of society” – but it was reportedly compelling enough for the star to abandon the far showier role of Gladiator 2 bad guy and jump ship.

Marianne Jean-Baptiste

There are few more exciting prospects than a new Mike Leigh film, given how impossible it seems to be for the writer-director to miss and also how rarely they tend to happen, with just three in the last 14 years. A surprise announcement last month that he would not only be returning this year with the contemporary drama Hard Truths but would also be reuniting with his Secrets and Lies star Marianne Jean-Baptiste was therefore quite the reveal. Little is known about the film (it’s been described as a “tough but compassionate intimate study of family life”) but Leigh’s knack for appealing to voters and Jean-Baptiste’s lived-in prowess (she received a supporting actress nod for their last collaboration) suggests we should be keeping an eye out.

Danielle Deadwyler

Last year’s successful star-backed Andrea Riseborough FYC campaign was controversial for many reasons, lifting the veil for many on how awards season often works but also taking attention away from an actor who many had seen as a shoo-in for a nom. Danielle Deadwyler’s performance in Till wasn’t an easy watch but the actor, who had previously impressed in Station Eleven and The Harder They Fall, showed once again that she can do no wrong. Next year could see her become a part of the best supporting actress race with a role in an adaptation of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson alongside John David Washington and Samuel L Jackson, who both starred in its recent Broadway iteration. After all, Viola Davis won her first Oscar and was nominated for another for roles in the last two August Wilson movies.

Daniel Craig

With so much time and energy handed over to the physically demanding Bond movies, Daniel Craig is now nearing the latter portion of his 50s with a new career outlook. The actor found a new, freer character to make his own in the Knives Out series and is embarking on his first non-franchise role since 2017’s non-starter Kings (a film that probably even he struggles to remember). He’s teaming with Luca Guadagnino for an adaptation of William S Burroughs’ novel Queer, filmed in Italy last year and also starring Oscar nominee Lesley Manville. He’ll play an insecure man falling for a younger guy, played by the Outer Banks star Drew Starkey.

Joan Chen

Chinese-born actor Joan Chen was a groundbreaker in the late 80s, breaking out into Hollywood at a time when few Asian women were being given opportunities. But by the late 90s, she spoke of her exhaustion with an industry that pigeonholed her and stepped away, focusing on films in China and Australia. She’s slowly returned to more US roles and this January, she played the grandmother of a 13-year-old Taiwanese-American boy grappling with life in the late 2000s in the Sundance breakout Didi. Chen, also an exec producer on the film, garnered acclaim for a quietly effective performance and with Focus behind it, who similarly ushered this year’s best supporting actress winner to success, she could see herself part of the conversation.

Denis Villeneuve

The actors’ strike of 2023 caused Warners to push the much-anticipated tentpole Dune 2 into 2024, an increasingly cursed franchise after the first was released during the Covid era. But all worked out with the film both bettering the original’s domestic box office and reviews calling it an even more satisfying experience (it scored a 10% leap on Rotten Tomatoes) already causing many to excitedly predict it as next year’s best picture winner. While that might sound unlikely, after its predecessor won six technical Oscars yet director Denis Villeneuve was snubbed, expect to see him play a major role in his respective race.

Natasha Lyonne

At last year’s Toronto film festival, while some of the bigger, starrier titles underwhelmed, the small-scale family drama His Three Daughters quietly became one of the best-reviewed titles on the ground. Buzz was strong enough (100% rating on RT so far) for Netflix to swoop in, pick it up and then hold it for release to be part of the following year’s slate and with no date yet confirmed, one can imagine them holding it for awards. All three daughters – Carrie Coon, Elizabeth Olsen and Natasha Lyonne – received some of their finest reviews to date, but Lyonne emerged with arguably the greatest chance of breaking into the best supporting actress race, something of an industry veteran deserving of Academy recognition.

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