2024 Oscars: Will all five Best Actor nominees be rookies like last year?

The last Academy Awards, which saw “Everything Everywhere All at Once” win Best Picture, featured a history-making lineup in the Best Actor category. All five of the nominees were newcomers: Brendan Fraser won for “The Whale” while Austin Butler (“Elvis”), Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”), Bill Nighy (“Living”), and Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) all reaped their first bids.

That was the first time this happened since 1935 when there were only three Best Actor nominees: Clark Gable (“It Happened One Night”), Frank Morgan (“The Affairs of Cellini”), and William Powell (“The Thin Man”); Gable won. But after such a long gap between those two records, could we have a case of London buses and see another Best Actor lineup full of newcomers again at this year’s Oscars? Let’s take a look.

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Currently, we are predicting that the following five fellows will be nominated for Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio (“Killers of the Flower Moon”), Cillian Murphy (“Oppenheimer”), Bradley Cooper (“Maestro”), Colman Domingo (“Rustin”), and Paul Giamatti (“The Holdovers”). Out of these five names, only two have never been nominated for an Oscar: Murphy and Domingo.

DiCaprio won Best Actor in 2016 for “The Revenant” while he has a further six other Oscar nominations to his name: Best Actor in 2005 for “The Aviator,” 2007 for “Blood Diamond,” 2014 for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and 2020 for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood;” Best Picture for “The Wolf of Wall Street;” and Best Supporting Actor in 1994 for “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” Cooper, meanwhile, has nine Oscar nominations to his name but no win. He has received three Best Actor bids — in 2013 for “Silver Linings Playbook,” in 2015 for “American Sniper,” and in 2019 for “A Star is Born.” He’s had four Best Picture bids — for “American Sniper” in 2015, “A Star is Born” in 2019, “Joker” in 2020, and “Nightmare Alley” in 2022. He’s also been nominated for Best Supporting Actor (for “American Hustle” in 2014) and Best Adapted Screenplay (shared with Eric Roth and Will Fetters in 2019 for “A Star is Born”). And Giamatti has been nominated for Best Supporting Actor — that came in 2006 for “Cinderella Man.”

There are other names, however, in the mix for a Best Actor nomination this year. Kingsley Ben-Adir will portray Bob Marley in “Bob Marley: One Love.” That would be a classic Best Actor nomination — Ben-Adir plays a real-life character, an iconic figure, in a transformative performance in a biopic. Butler did that last year when he was nominated for playing Elvis Presley in “Elvis,” while Rami Malek won in 2019 for playing Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and Gary Oldman won for playing Winston Churchill in 2018 for “Darkest Hour.” This would be Ben-Adir’s first nomination.

Meanwhile, Teo Yoo stars in “Past Lives,” a film that we think will land bids for Best Picture, Best Director for Celine Song, Best Actress for Greta Lee, Best Supporting Actor for John Magaro, and Best Original Screenplay. We think the academy will love “Past Lives” so Yoo could get taken along for the ride here in the same way that Ryan Gosling did when he was nominated for “La La Land” (Gosling was excellent in that film but the focus was all on Emma Stone‘s performance and Damien Chazelle‘s filmmaking). This would be Yoo’s first Oscar bid.

And John David Washington stars in “The Piano Lesson,” which is an adaptation of August Wilson‘s seminal play. Washington is looking for his first-ever Oscar bid with this film directed by his brother, Malcolm Washington. Adaptations of plays tend to do well in Best Actor. Their dad, Denzel Washington, was recently nominated twice in this category for adaptations of plays — in 2022 for “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and in 2017 for “Fences.” Fraser won for “The Whale,” which had been a play, Andrew Garfield was nominated in 2022 for “Tick, Tick… Boom!,” which was a musical, and Anthony Hopkins won in 2021 for “The Father,” which was also a play.

So, there is potential there for the Best Actor lineup to be filled with newcomers, but Ben-Adir, Yoo, and Washington (or others) will have to usurp DiCaprio, Cooper, and Giamatti. Giamatti is on the precipice, so he could realistically be replaced but DiCaprio and Cooper are two beloved actors who are starring in major motion pictures that we think the academy will embrace. It would be a surprise, even at this early stage, if at least one of them wasn’t nominated for Best Actor. So, for now, we think that last year’s Best Actor lineup of Oscar newcomers will remain an anomaly.

However, we do think that Murphy has a great chance of winning. He’s tied for the top spot in our odds chart with DiCaprio. Five of the last 10 Best Actor winners were performers winning on their first-ever nominations: Matthew McConaughey in 2014 for “Dallas Buyers Club,” Eddie Redmayne in 2015 for “The Theory of Everything,” Casey Affleck in 2017 for “Manchester by the Sea,” Malek in 2019 for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and Fraser in 2023 for “The Whale.” Murphy could join that club.

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