The supporting actors often go unnoticed as the leads tend to take up more of the screen space and time. However they play quite an integral part in the storyline, providing the much-needed backbone. The strength of their talent lie in the time spent in the shadows, often notching up memorable performances. Over the years, the many of the silver screen legends have played second fiddle and come up victorious at the grandest stage of them all. The Academy Award have seldom gone to the wrong person.
We continue our game, with the Supporting Actor winners on the table this time. It was a tough fight and with much deliberation we have listed out the winners in our fictitious year.
16. George Clooney, ‘Syriana’ (2006)
The choice was more for the status than substance, In Syriana, as a veteran CIA agent with a huge past, George Clooney does his best to substantiate that. Buoyed by his weight gain for the role, Clooney managed makes a decent attempt but fails to elevate the character to a higher level. How Jack Gyllenhaal was overlooked is beyond anyone.
15. Christopher Plummer, Beginners (2011)
It was a different role for veteran actor Christopher Plummer and he tried his very best in not going overboard as a gay man dying from cancer. He had succeeded quite a bit but his overall portrayal as Hal Fields was somewhat repetitive. The emotional connect was missing and the audience could never really empathize. The whole effect was lukewarm at best. The Award win seemed more sympathetic than deserving to be honest.
14. Mark Rylance, ‘Bridge of Spies’ (2015)
Mark Rylance was astoundingly unassuming as the elderly Russian spy in Spielberg’s Cold War drama. His diminutive stature, timid posture and deceitful appearance played into the character perfectly and he was unquestionably convincing in his role. He was utterly calm even in the moments of crisis and succeeded in drawing a certain amount of sympathy from the audience. A stage veteran, he bagged the coveted trophy in his recent venture into the film world. Although eyebrows were raised with Sylvester Stallone’s loss, a silent applause was heard when this aging actor put in an evergreen performance.
13. Christoph Waltz, ‘Django Unchained’ (2012)
A traveling dentist with a heart of gold and a bounty hunter to boot – Dr. King Shultz is one of the most dynamic characters from Tarantino’s whimsical pen. Calm, composed and blessed with a killer instinct, Christoph Waltz plays the quiet mentor to a swashbuckling Jamie Foxx as Django. He speaks with precision and brings out the lethal comic timing to perfection. A good performance but not his best by any measure.
12. Tim Robbins, ‘Mystic River’ (2003)
As the emotionally disturbed Dave Boyle, Tim Robbins put in a mysterious performance, quietly bringing out the nervousness as the chief suspect of a murder. Mentally ravaged by a childhood encounter, Dave Boyle’s mind was invaded by Robbins, putting up a stellar performance and going toe-to-toe with Sean Penn and snatching his own golden statue in the end. At his very best after the iconic ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, Tim Robbins was worthy of the honors bestowed upon him.
11. Alan Arkin, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ (2006)
Alan Arkin was appropriate as the heroin addict opinionated old man in this hilarious family drama. Appropriately crusty, Arkin is unapologetically loud while voicing his thoughts. The sense of his comic timing is pitch perfect and makes every single scene worth another watch. The icing on his performance is the shade of warmth he has towards his granddaughter, the childlike innocent warmth between them is actually endearing. Arkin brought in all his years of experience for this role and delivered with aplomb. There were other worthy contenders but no one really complained with this win. Alan Arkin is a lovable person indeed.
10. Benicio Del Toro, ‘Traffic’ (2000)
Getting your part noticed in a hyperlink movie is an achievement in itself, and the Puerto Rican actor, Benicio Del Toro took it a notch higher by winning the golden statuette. In Traffic, he was the righteous Mexican cop Javier Rodriguez, who was restrained in his emotions. Benicio put in an honest performance, never underperformed but remained stoic, for a character who had to underplay his emotions to survive in a corrupt environment. Subtle indications were enough to make the audience empathize with his emotions and the critics applauded his talent behind the indifference. Although not quite strong to pip Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator, it was an effort every bit deserving of the award.
9. Chris Cooper, ‘Adaptation’ (2002)
Casually eccentric, hilarious, and ruggedly charming, Chris Cooper as the infamous flower poacher John Laroche gave a thoroughly entertaining performance, with his self-interest filled dialogues and obsession with the flora. That lazy drawl and the slow passionate voice came alternatively while charming the New York reporter. The Academy Awards went on a different route for this category, opting the comedy over the heavy dramas. The section partial to this genre had simply loved the outcome. We can’t say the same for everyone though.
8. Jim Broadbent, ‘Iris’ (2001)
It is not easy to witness a soul dying and do nothing about it. Oxford Professor John Bayley suffered this fate when he was the silent spectator to his wife, author Iris Murdoch’s Alzheimer’s disease. Veteran actor Jim Broadbent brought out that precise anguish as the professor himself in ‘Iris’. He was torn between frustration and helplessness as the mind which had attracted him in the first place started to fade away. That slow torture was evident in Jim’s performance, leading to a rare event when the witness of a suffering gets the acclaim over the sufferer. The Oscar win was fulfilling enough.
7. Morgan Freeman, ‘Million Dollar Baby’ (2004)
Million Dollar Baby had its spotlight stars in the evergreen Clint Eastwood and the talented Hilary Swank. But as the retired boxer-gym assistant, Scrap Iron Eddie is the silent observer to the entire tale. The old boots are filled by Morgan Freeman, who provided the proverbial calm amidst the raging storm. He has that reassuring persona which draws the troubled to seek his advice and the enchanting voice which would soothe a raging lion. It takes great caliber to carve out a niche yourself in this plethora of stars. Morgan Freeman with all his brilliance did just that. The Academy Award was long overdue.
6. Christian Bale, ‘The Fighter’ (2010)
In a universally acclaimed performance, method actor Christian Bale essayed the role of retired boxer, Dicky Ecklund. Talented and arrogant, drug addicted and narcissistic, Dicky Ecklund was a colorful figure whose shoes were aptly filled by Bale. He played the role with a cocky swagger, so full of himself that he never realized that he was doing more harm than good for his brother. Tall, thin and weedy, Bale transformed himself completely for this role, and was the quiet antagonist to Mark Wahlberg’s hero. It remains one of the most iconic roles in sports movie history and the Academy Award nod was never surprising.
5. Jared Leto, ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ (2013)
As the transgender woman suffering from AIDS, Jared Leto gave his career best performance, bringing out the pathos and mental agony behind the woman without overdoing it. He had immaculately brought out the accent of Rayon, the walk and the disturbance of a troubled past, giving the perfect support for Matthew McConaghuey’s Ron Woodroof. The will to live was evident and Jared Leto nailed the win during the scene with Rayon’s father. The uneasiness and the hesitation was apparent and the subsequent Oscar win was imminent.
4. J.K. Simmons, ‘Whiplash’ (2014)
It is the hallmark of a great actor when he makes a supposedly ordinary character memorable. J.K. Simmons did exactly that as the tyrannical music instructor Terrence Fletcher. He portrays the role with sheer confidence and owned the screen every time the camera panned on him. The ruthlessness was shown with ease and his eyes held that persistent threat whenever they glowered upon any student. The antagonist to this inspiring tale was superb and the Academy Award win was deserving to say the least.
3. Christoph Waltz, ‘Inglorious Bastards’ (2009)
Col. Hans Landa S.S. aka The Jew Hunter has to be the most iconic character from Tarantino’s bounty, and a large part of the credit for its popularity goes to Christoph Waltz. He was menacingly wonderful, bringing out the chill factor every time he took a casual glance of his surroundings. The persistent devilish smile on his lips added to his scary image and his eyes gave away nothing to his would be victims. He walked and talked with astute cunning, playing the perfect foil to an ingenious plot. Waltz’s first win was definitely his best performance.
2. Javier Bardem, ‘No Country for Old Men’ (2007)
In one of the best movies in recent years, Javier Bardem brings fear on the table as the cold psychopathic killer on a mission to retrieve money. The deadpan eyes, the odd walk and the falling hair add to his chilling persona. Bardem was downright unsympathetic in his performance, leaving the audience clutching the armrest after his phantom like appearance. He managed to make Anton Chigurh a cult character, someone whose methods and personality would be discussed through generations. Needless to say, the Academy Award came knocking soon after.
1. Heath Ledger, ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)
The character of Joker is one of the most portrayed ones in film and animation, with legends like Mark Hamill and Jack Nicholson breathing life into the complex comic character. Heath Ledger took it several notches higher, making Joker one of the most iconic movie villains of all time, in a performance that can be hailed as one of the very best of all time. He had turned himself into the character completely and became the anarchist nemesis of Bruce Wayne, challenging him mentally and physically and making the entire thing look eerily real. The walk, the posture, the cold stare – everything was embodied perfectly. His death was shocking but he had already made himself evergreen.