By Anjelica Oswald
With Michael Keaton winning the Golden Globe for best actor in a musical or comedy and Eddie Redmayne winning for best actor in a drama, both men continue establishing themselves as the frontrunners in this year’s lead actor race at the Oscars.
Though not new to films, Redmayne starred in Oscar-nominated films such as Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2008) and Les Miserables (2012). His performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, however, propelled him to widespread acclaim and put him on the radar. He is one of four best actor nominees — along with Keaton, Benedict Cumberbatch and Steve Carell — to receive their first nomination this year.
For most of his career, Keaton was known for his comedic roles, such as Mr. Mom (1983) and Beetlejuice (1988), and for his turn as Batman in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). These roles earned Keaton praise and established him as a likeable actor, but it wasn’t until this year’s Birdman that Keaton earned his first Oscar nomination. In Alejandro G. Inarritu’s film, Keaton stars as an actor, once famous for playing a superhero, who turns to writing, directing and producing a play on Broadway in an effort to stage a comeback. It’s not that he was overlooked for an Oscar for his previous roles, but his role in Birdman is the first role that’s allowed Keaton to show the scope of his talents.
Predicting winners in the best actor category is often difficult and includes a number of buzzed-about performances, and this year is no different. Looking at best actor nominations and wins over the past 50 years to see what the precedent for new-to-the-radar versus established actors is, some patterns emerge. Keaton and Redmayne will face similar situations at the Oscars on Feb. 22.