Oscars 2023: Best Actor Predictions

8 March 2023

We keep updating these predictions through the awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks. Final voting is March 2 through 7, 2023.  The 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT.

See our initial thoughts for what to expect at the 95th Academy Awards here.

The State of the Race

This year’s Best Actor race has been one for the books. It’s not often that we get three nominees on somewhat equal footing going into final voting. It’s even rarer to have the category consist completely of first-time nominees (the last time it happened was 1935). As Oscar night nears, one actor stands out as the likeliest winner, but it’d be unwise to suggest anyone is a lock.

While California-born “Elvis” star Austin Butler did not win at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, he did grab the Drama Golden Globe, and even more miraculously, the BAFTA Award. Both wins indicate strong international support, plus the Warner Bros. film is a Best Picture nominee and will likely win some craft Oscars, so the young star likely has the edge over rival Brendan Fraser, even if Butler is likely to be back for seconds and thirds at the Oscar and this is likely Fraser’s last banquet.

While the teary-eyed Canadian star’s comeback story has dominated the awards news cycle and he took home the Critics Choice and the SAG Award for Best Actor (which means considerable support from the dominant Academy Actors branch), Darren Aronofsky’s film was divisive. “The Whale” earned three Oscar nominations including Fraser, Best Supporting Actress for Hong Chau, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling for Adrien Morot, Judy Chin and Annemarie Bradley. The advantage in the Best Actor race goes to a film with a Best Picture nomination, which “The Whale” lacks.

Finally Butler and Fraser are in a duel over degree of difficulty. Both gave their all. One subsumed himself to become Elvis Presley, singing as the young Elvis, and aging into the late phases of the King of Rock and Roll. The other believably, with the use of prosthetics, transformed into a morbidly obese man.

Which leaves one-time frontrunner Colin Farrell just acting, without props, a slightly dim Irish fellow who doesn’t understand why his best friend (Brendan Gleeson) is cutting off their long friendship. Farrell started off strong, won the Comedy Golden Globe, and seemed poised to take the BAFTA, if not SAG. By losing both, he lost valuable momentum, even though “Banshees,” with nine nominations including Picture, is a popular favorite.

A three way race means that anything can happen.

The BAFTAs would have been the place for veteran Bill Nighy to pull an upset for his poignant performance as a dying man in “Living.” And for 27-year-old rising Irish star Paul Mescal, just landing the fifth-slot nomination for British micro-indie “Aftersun” was the win. He’ll be back.

Nominees are listed below in order of likelihood they will win.

Austin Butler (“Elvis”)
Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”)
Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)
Bill Nighy (“Living”)
Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”)

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