The 1999 Oscar Odds: Best Actor
Check out EW's odds for Roberto Benigni, Tom Hanks, Edward Norton, and more
We have seen the future…and it’s time to take our crystal ball in for a tune-up. With some of the tightest races in recent memory, the 71st annual Academy Awards has even the most seasoned prognosticators playing 52 pickup with their tarot decks. Despite the cloudiness, we’ve managed to sift through the hoopla of critics’ prizes, secondary awards shows, and straight-up politics to fearlessly predict the fates of Gwyneth Paltrow, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Billy Bob Thornton, Shakespeare, and the rest of the nominees in all 24 categories. Should the events of March 21, 1999 surprise the entire world, we’ll throw up our hands like the rest of you. But should we prove uncannily correct, you know where to send a cut of those Oscar-pool winnings.
For Him: He’s been sanctioned by the Screen Actors Guild, and in a close race, buzz is building that ebullient Benigni’s triple-threat work on Life Is Beautiful might just be rewarded. Plus, we can assure you that his acceptance speech would make even Cuba Gooding Jr.’s look restrained.
Against Him: Tough competition — and a language barrier.
For Him: He’s Mr. Popularity but didn’t coast on it; instead, the two-time Oscar winner (for 1993’s Philadelphia and 1994’s Forrest Gump) brought new shadings of power and gravity to his assignment as the stoic captain in Saving Private Ryan, this category’s only big hit.
Against Him: Three Oscars in six years? Better to spread the wealth.
For Him: The 59-year-old reached an onscreen pinnacle in a tiny indie — his grand, haunted turn in Lions Gate’s Gods and Monsters has won him widespread acclaim and prizes. Plus, an award to him would be the first Oscar to honor an openly gay actor playing a gay character.
Against Him: He’s not the only one who’s paid his dues (see Nick Nolte).
For Him: The 58-year-old reached an onscreen pinnacle in a tiny indie — his grand, haunted turn in Lions Gate’s Affliction has won him widespread acclaim and prizes. Plus, an award to him would honor his fine work in Best Picture nominee The Thin Red Line.
Against Him: He’s not the only one who’s paid his dues (see Ian McKellen).
For Him: His nomination as the repentant skinhead in American History X shocked the industry — until they caught up with his daring performance. A blazing American talent in the Sean Penn mold, he’s clearly headed for a win…
Against Him:…but not this year. In fact, he’s not even out campaigning (doesn’t he deserve an Oscar just for that?).
The Lowdown: A genuinely exciting four-way race; momentum is shifting to Benigni, but how fast?