Regardless of how you feel about “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” Anthony Minghella’s 1999 thriller about a homicidal closeted homosexual and his plans to assume the life of the man he loves, one cannot deny that the casting was nothing short of spectacular. Two of its principals had already won Academy Awards by the time of its release (Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow), and you just knew that it was only a matter of time before the other three main actors (Jude Law, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman) followed suit. To date, well, four out of five ain’t bad. Blanchett and Hoffman have their Oscars, but Law has only nominations for his work in “Ripley” and “Cold Mountain.” Ah, but what cheekbones! Suck on that, Philip.
As we pored over the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards, we made a list of our favorite actors and actresses (and directors) that we are confident will strike Oscar gold before all is said and done. There was only one rule: anyone who has received a nomination for an Oscar in your chosen field was ineligible, which ruled out damn near everyone (Amy Adams, Naomi Watts, Ellen Page, Johnny Depp, Joaquin Phoenix, Will Smith). Five names, though, stood out above the others. Behold, Bullz-Eye’s inaugural class of future Academy Award winners.
We’re the first to acknowledge that the inclusion of Bale on a list like this is obvious in a ‘the sun will rise tomorrow in the east’ kind of way, but to this day, Bale has yet to be formally recognized by his peers for his efforts, which strikes us as, well, completely bonkers. More Method than Method, Bale lost 60 pounds for his role in “The Machinist,” then gained 100 pounds in order to don the cape and cowl for “Batman Begins” (right). What makes Bale so fascinating to watch, though, is in guessing what he will do next; like Johnny Depp, Bale follows his heart, picking his projects with little regard for their financial prospects (“The New World”), though when he picks a mainstream project, it’s of the 800-pound gorilla variety (along with “Batman,” Bale is rumored to have taken the role as John Connor in McG’s “Terminator” reboot). It is only a matter of time before one of those choices nets Bale an Oscar, and based on the way he stood toe-to-toe with Russell Crowe in “3:10 to Yuma,” we suspect it will happen sooner than later.
How’s this for an American movie debut: the London-born Blunt nearly stole “The Devil Wears Prada” (right) from Meryl Streep, and that was a mere three years after she made her first-ever movie. Streep has praised Blunt as one of the finest young actors she has ever worked with, which would certainly explain how Blunt soon found herself working with Steve Carell (“Dan in Real Life”) and Tom Hanks (“Charlie Wilson’s War”), as well as landing leading roles in Sundance darlings “Sunshine Clearing” and “The Great Buck Howard.” We like her because she takes her craft seriously but doesn’t deny her sexuality at its expense, beautifully defined in her role as Charlie Wilson’s jailbait sex kitten. Keira Knightley may be the current UK screen siren, but she would be wise to watch her back.
He directed the best “Harry Potter” movie to date (2004’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”), as well as the best movie of 2006 (the gravely overlooked “Children of Men”). He has done children’s movies (“Little Princess”), Mexican road movies (“Y Tu Mamá También”), and even adapted a British literature giant (“Great Expectations”). In other words, noting scares him, and he is loath to repeat himself, opting out of the “Potter” franchise after making one movie. The tracking shots in “Children of Men” – the ambush sequence in particular – are the stuff of legend, but his secret weapon is his ability to work with children, as evidenced in “Potter” and “Princess.” He has received Oscar nominations for editing and adapted screenplay, but he has been shut out of the Best Director category so far. That won’t last long.
Joaquin Phoenix, Version 2.0. Or is he Adrien Brody, 2.0? He actually has qualities of both, combining Brody’s lithe frame with Phoenix’s taste for the offbeat. If his performance as the stubbornly silent Dwayne in “Little Miss Sunshine” was his debutante ball, then his role as the Reverend Eli Sunday in “There Will Be Blood” (right) is his graduation night kegger, slapping Daniel Day-Lewis around with all the passive-aggressive glee he can muster. Dano shows no signs of changing his tastes for the eccentric either, appearing in Spike Jonze’s adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are” and rumored to be starring in the latest effort from Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) and Michael Mann’s upcoming Chicago-based gangster movie starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. You can’t buy instincts like that.
In the tradition of outstanding supporting actors like Chris Cooper, Simmons is one of those actors who can do anything you ask of him (sadistic prisoner in “Oz” one minute, motor-mouthed newspaper editor in “Spider-Man” the next) and his involvement with a project invariably makes a bad movie good and a good movie even better. The casting of him and Allison Janney as the parents of one Juno MacGuff was a stroke of genius – indeed, we suspect that Janney will also have an Oscar-winning moment before all is said and done – and we just know that Simmons is spending his strike-aided downtime from his relentless TV schedule browsing scripts for that perfect part. The beauty of Simmons, though, is that every part is the perfect part for him. That means he’s due, people.