Bradley Cooper "Joy"
Jeff Daniels "Steve Jobs"
Robert DeNiro "Joy"
Tom Hardy "The Revenant"
Samuel L. Jackson "The Hateful Eight"
Other Contenders - Alan Alda "Bridge of Spies", Mark Rylance "Bridge of Spies", Billy Magnussen "Bridge of Spies", Kurt Russell "The Hateful Eight", Bruce Dern "The Hateful Eight", Demian Bichir "The Hateful Eight", Tim Roth "The Hateful Eight", Walton Goggins "The Hateful Eight", Steve Carell "Freeheld", Michael Shannon "Freeheld", Benedict Cumberbatch "Black Mass", Corey Stoll "Black Mass", Kevin Bacon "Black Mass", Harvey Keitel "Youth", Ralph Fiennes "A Bigger Splash", Christoph Waltz "Tulip Fever", Oscar Isaac "Ex Machina", Bradley Whitford "I Saw the Light", Emory Cohen "Brooklyn", Benicio Del Toro "Sicario", Kyle Chandler "Carol", Billy Bob Thornton "Our Brand is Crisis", Michael Keaton "Spotlight", Mark Ruffalo "Spotlight", Stanley Tucci "Spotlight", John Slattery "Spotlight", Seth Rogen "Steve Jobs", Cillian Murphy "In the Heart of the Sea", Ben Whishaw "In the Heart of the Sea", Kevin Kline "Ricki and the Flash", Sebastian Stan "Ricki and the Flash", Dane DeHaan "Life", George Clooney "Money Monster", Jude Law "Genuis", Guy Pearce "Genius"
Commentary - The Hateful Eight is so stacked, it could literally fill out all five slots with beloved veteran actors. Kurt Russell seems like the obvious choice here, but I am going with Samuel L. Jackson. A lot depends on who is the best scenery-chewer in the film, but they owe Jackson some love from Tarantino's last film Django Unchained. So for now, he is in. But Russell, Dern, Goggins, Roth, and Bichir could all play depending on how the roles turn out. Joy has two major roles to contend with, and given the recent track record of David O. Russell's actors (including previous nominations for both of these guys in his movies), it is not out of the realm of possibility that both Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper get in. We see it happen a lot in these supporting categories, and I think, given their star power it is a real possibility going into the fall. Steve Jobs has several contenders, including Seth Rogen, but I think, at least from what we see from the trailer, that Jeff Daniels is going to be the stand out among the supporting players. He has finally gotten the attention of the Emmy voters with The Newsroom, and after a stellar career, he is an overdue veteran, that has proven that when he is given the fast-paced and intelligent writing of Aaron Sorkin, he can soar as an actor. Finally, the first trailer for The Revenant, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's followup to his Oscar triumph Birdman, looks promising. Maybe this is the role that finally gets Tom Hardy an Oscar nomination. Combined with his Mad Max role, this could be a breakthrough year for the star, and everything in the film's Oscar pedigree points to potential Oscar glory. So that leaves the Bridge of Spies guys on the outside looking in. Alan Alda is a beloved Oscar-nominated veteran, and Mark Rylance is a Tony-winning genius of the stage, who just got an Emmy nomination. Both are real threats. So are the Black Mass guys. It is premering in Venice, which makes me think it is a real contender, and it has Kevin Bacon, Corey Stoll, and a nominee last year, Benedict Cumberbatch in its ranks. I think that Johnny Depp is a real threat based on the trailer, but it will take the initial reviews to sort out which of these three guys are the biggest threats. Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo could be back again for Spotlight (for that matter watch out for Stanley Tucci and John Slattey). Genius, In the Heart of the Sea, and Ricki and the Flash have dynamic duos to consider, as well as Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Dane DeHaan, George Clooney, Kyle Chandler, and Bradley Whitford.