For the second year in a row, the race for best actress is wide open, with key precursors to the Academy Awards yet to be determined.
The Oscar nominees are Jessica Chastain for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight Pictures), Olivia Colman for “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix), Penélope Cruz for “Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classics), Nicole Kidman for “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios) and Kristen Stewart for “Spencer” (Neon/Topic Studios). No performance is from a best picture nominee, a first since the 2005 lineup. And none of the contenders was nominated for a BAFTA Award, which “Nomadland” star Frances McDormand won prior to her Oscar victory last year. So how does each become a winner (in some cases for the second time)?
In a ceremony closed to media last month, the Globes awarded Kidman the lead actress drama prize for her turn as classic TV star Lucille Ball in the Aaron Sorkin feature. If she pulls off a SAG victory, which she hasn’t done for a film despite an Oscar win for “The Hours” (2002), she may have a clear road to the Dolby Theater stage.
Colman, another Oscar winner (“The Favorite,” 2018), has never taken a SAG prize. If she does, it could give her an advantage, signaling huge support from the actors branch. Her turn in “The Lost Daughter” is beloved, and with the film landing additional noms for adapted screenplay and supporting actress Jessie Buckley, Colman may be able to carry the torch for the Netflix drama.
Chastain’s path might be a bit narrower, but her prospects could take off under the right circumstances. Aside from Stewart, she’s the only actress never awarded in the category, with previous nominations for “The Help” (2011) and “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012). Highly respected in the industry, the Juilliard-trained producer and lead of “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” transforms into the charismatic televangelist. The movie’s accompanying makeup and hairstyling nomination gives a statistical upper hand that has helped previous winners like Renée Zellweger (“Judy”), Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”) and Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”).
Stewart’s opening will present itself on March 13 at the Critics Choice Awards, where she’s nominated. She missed out on SAG and BAFTA nods, however, and no leading performer has won the Oscar in the modern era without mentions at both ceremonies. Heavily favored to win at CCA, which comes two days before final Oscar voting opens and the same night as the contender-free BAFTAs, she’ll have the perfect setup to make history as a newly minted Oscar winner. One additional hurdle for Stewart is carrying the only nomination for “Spencer,” something that hurt nominee Andra Day as the sole rep for “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” last year. With more than 60% of Academy members in the artisan categories, they’ll need to seek out Stewart’s work to check off her name.
Cruz, a winner for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (2008), was able to overcome her snubs at every awards show and even bring in an added mention for original score (Alberto Iglesias) for “Parallel Mothers.” Her nom seems to be the reward, but anything can happen.
We won’t have a clearer picture for another few weeks. The final SAG voting closes today at noon PST.
The final SAG Awards predictions, with category commentary, along with a new video episode of Awards Circuit can be found here.