One of the more curious acting category considerations for this year’s Oscar race has been settled. While Christian Bale and Matt Damon are both essentially leading characters in director James Mangold’s tremendous crowdpleaser Ford v Ferrari, there was some question as to whether one of them might be submitted in the Best Supporting Actor category. The true-story drama chronicles how maverick American car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) was tasked by Ford to build a revolutionary race car that would challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. To help with this impossible task, Shelby enlisted hotheaded (but talented) British racer Ken Miles (Bale) to design and race the vehicle.
The movie opens and closes with Damon’s character, but we only see the personal/interior life of Bale’s character. They’re true co-leads, and as such most expected one of them to compete for Best Supporting Actor and possibly win—a play that paid off for folks like Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained and Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl.
So it’s a pleasant surprise to learn, via Deadline, that Damon and Bale have both decided to compete in the Best Actor category for the film. No category fraud here. This kind of consideration is usually made with the input of the actors themselves, but more often than not they go Supporting so as to not compete against one another, and score a better chance at a nomination and eventual win.
If you ask me, Bale has the better chance of getting nominated of the two. His character is the “flashier,” he gets the more dramatic arc, and as I mentioned he’s the one who gets to interact with a family. Both the Best Actor and Supporting Actor categories are pretty stacked this year, but Supporting Actor in particular is rough. You’ve got Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Alan Alda (Marriage Story), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), and Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy) all vying for slots. But then again Best Actor is no cakewalk either, as folks like Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Robert De Niro (The Irishman), and Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory) are all serving as formidable contenders.
Regardless, it’s nice to see two actors of Bale and Damon’s stature going it together. It’s a bit reminiscent of how the cast of The Favourite wanted to give Olivia Colman the best shot at winning Best Actress, so Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz both decided to submit for Best Supporting Actress. And that play paid off with a surprise win for Colman.
As for Ford v Ferrari itself, it’s definitely a contender in all the major categories, and it’s one of the best films of the year. For a closer look at the Best Picture race, click here for my predictions.