With roughly five months until the Oscars, the buzz surrounding which actors are frontrunners for the various categories has already begun. Gold Derby recently hosted a virtual debate between industry experts from Variety, Deadline, and IndieWire to talk through their predictions for this year’s Best Actor and Best Actress nominees. Keep reading for a roundup of some of the top names that made their lists, as well as the pros’ personal favorites.

Best Actress 

Many names were mentioned when the industry experts started debating who they thought would receive an Oscar nod this year. Variety’s Clayton Davis gave his clear top three frontrunners, which included Vanessa Kirby for Pieces of a Woman, Viola Davis for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Frances McDormand for Nomadland. McDormand’s chances of winning at the 2021 Oscars were debated, though, after her recent win in the category for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. “I think [that] logically she would not become the frontrunner,” noted Variety’s Tim Gray. “But on the other hand, she’s Frances McDormand. I mean, she’s revered in a way that most other actors aren’t.” 

Best Actor 

Amongst many performances in this category, Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Anthony Hopkins in The Father, Steven Yeun in Minari, and Kingsley Ben-Adir in One Night in Miami received a lot of attention from the experts. “He’s the Vanessa Kirby of the Best Actor race,” asserted IndieWire’s Anne Thompson about Ben-Adir. “He’s a discovery.” And Davis pointed to Boseman as the significant challenger to Hopkins in the category. “I think we’ve all been waiting for who could rival Anthony Hopkins because his performance [in The Father] is so fantastic,” Davis opined.

Favorite Performances

When Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil asked the pros who they were personally rooting for, even if they thought the actors were longshots for being nominated, a number of female actors were mentioned. Davis named Jessie Buckley for her work in I’m Thinking of Ending Things, as well as Julia Garner’s performance in The Assistant. And in a moment of agreement, Thompson and Hammond both noted the work of Rachel Brosnahan in I’m Your Woman and Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man. Cary Mulligan’s performance in Promising Young Woman and Anya Taylor-Joy’s turn as the titular character in Autumn de Wilde’s recent adaptation of Emma were also listed.  

 During the industry experts’ discourse, Hammond commented on the unique nature of this year’s Best Actress category, with veteran thespians competing against newer faces. “[There’s] no question about it,” the Deadline industry expert stated. “This is going to be a race like we haven’t seen in a while.” It seems fitting for what is going to be an unprecedented Academy Awards due to the changes caused by the pandemic. The delayed date of the awards show, which will now air on April 25, is just one example. But regardless of when they take place or how they’re altered by COVID-19, the upcoming 2021 Oscars represent our industry’s dedication to celebrating the best work in film. And on March 15 when Oscar nominations are announced, you can see how the experts faired in predicting who will be competing in the categories of Best Actor and Best Actress.

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