Best Actor Oscar race dominated by known faces

In this year’s Oscar race for the lead actor prize, two of the front-runners represent a pair of films likely to duke it out for best picture: Leonardo DiCaprio, whose fading Western TV star Rick Dalton is the heart and soul of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and Robert De Niro, who does his best work in years as a mob hitman in Martin Scorsese’s epic “The Irishman.” Both are previous winners in the category.

In addition, Adam Driver, who was nominated last year for supporting actor in “BlacKkKlansman,” seems a likely nominee for his role as a stage director going through an excruciating divorce in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.” Joaquin Phoenix is always a contender, and his “Joker” has proven to be a major hit, and Eddie Murphy’s rollicking tribute to performer Rudy Ray Moore in “Dolemite Is My Name” has the comeback-story lane all to itself.

But nothing is for certain and in making any further predictions, it helps to consider the precedent. Last year, Rami Malek took the prize for his turn as flamboyant Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Dexter Fletcher, who took over as that film’s director when Bryan Singer exited the project, has returned with the Elton John musical “Rocketman,” for which Taron Egerton pulled off a similar transformation. And unlike Malek, who lacks Mercury’s superhuman range, Egerton faced the challenge of singing Elton’s songs in his own voice.

28 PHOTOS
Robert De Niro
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Robert De Niro
American actor Robert de Niro on the set of Once Upon a Time in America, directed by Sergio Leone. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
American actor Robert de Niro on the set of Once Upon a Time in America, directed by Sergio Leone. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone in the 1974 film The Godfather: Part II. (Photo by �� John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
American actor Robert de Niro on the set of Taxi Driver, directed by Martin Scorsese. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
American actor Robert de Niro on the set of Mean Streets, written and directed by Martin Scorsese. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver (Photo by Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images)
Robert De Niro during 2003 Tribeca Film Festival - 'Chinese Coffee' Screening at Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York, New York, United States. (Photo by J. Vespa/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 15: Robert De Niro (R) and Grace Hightower attend the SNL 40th Anniversary Celebration at Rockefeller Plaza on February 15, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 16: Robert De Niro attends the 2014 Robert F. Kennedy Ripple Of Hope Gala at New York Hilton on December 16, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 16: Honoree Robert De Niro speaks onstage during the RFK Ripple Of Hope Gala at Hilton Hotel Midtown on December 16, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for RFK Ripple Of Hope)
ROME, ITALY - NOVEMBER 17: Robert De Niro attends the Remembering The Artist Robert De Niro Conference at Maxxi Museum on November 17, 2014 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - NOVEMBER 17: Robert De Niro attends the Remembering The Artist Robert De Niro Press Conference at Maxxi Museum on November 17, 2014 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 28: Actor Robert DeNiro is seen on October 28, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by NCP/Star Max/GC Images)
NEW YORK NY - OCTOBER 18: Robert De Niro sighting on October 18, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27: 'Once Upon A Time In America' cast member Robert De Niro attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: Robert De Niro attends 2014 Atlantic Council's Global Citizen Awards at Natural History Museum on September 21, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 18: Robert DeNiro, Anne Hathaway filming Nancy Meyer's 'The Intern' on September 18, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Sands/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway film on the set of 'The Intern' on August 26, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Sands/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Actor Robert De Niro on the set of 'The Intern' on July 8, 2014 in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Bobby Bank/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Ruby Kushner and Robert De Niro on the set of 'The Intern' on June 26, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Bobby Bank/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23: Actors Robert De Niro and Linda Lavin on the set of 'The Intern' on June 23, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Bobby Bank/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23: Actor Robert De Niro on the set of 'The Intern' on June 23, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Bobby Bank/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23: Robert De Niro is seen filming The Intern in Park Slope, Brooklyn on June 23, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Alessio Botticelli/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06: Director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro speak onstage at Spike TV's 'Don Rickles: One Night Only' on May 6, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Spike TV)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 02: Robert De Niro and Grace Hightower attend a screening of the HBO documentary 'Remembering The Artist, Robert De Niro, Sr.' hosted by POLITICO at the Longview Gallery on May 2, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alexander Morozov/Getty Images)
Actor Robert De Niro talks to reporters and film professionals during "Coffee with..." event during the 22nd Sarajevo Film Festival in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, August 13, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
Paris, France, 24 11 1977, Robert De Niro actor. (Photo by Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2000: Robert De Niro is on hand at the Museum of the Moving Image dinner honoring film producer Jane Rosenthal at the St. Regis Hotel. (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
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“I felt very proud of doing the singing myself and hope it brings something to the film,” Egerton says.“You can’t become Elton John. There’s an element of me trying to emulate him, but we just hoped that an audience would accept my voice and have an investment in the character, because the character is expressing his voice through song. It’s not a straight biopic. It’s a musical.”

As part of the film’s continued rollout, Egerton has been emphasizing his musical chops by performing with Elton, including in a recent “Rocketman” concert at the Hollywood Bowl. And according to Egerton, the two have become even closer through the experience of promoting the film.

“I can imagine it’s an odd feeling, having your life depicted in that way, because it also might be an introduction [to Elton] for some people in future generations. So there’s a big weight of responsibility, but he seems very pleased with it. He said he felt really understood by me, which is a lovely thing to say. I really would call him one of my closest friends now.”

The Oscars love showmanship, but they also value megastars willing to get down and dirty. Robert Eggers’ 19th century-set, black-and-white two-hander “The Lighthouse” is a deeply irreverent film about extremes, and Robert Pattinson’s performance as a lighthouse keeper required various forms of intense commitment.

67 PHOTOS
Leonardo DiCaprio through the years
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Leonardo DiCaprio through the years
UNITED STATES - JUNE 18: Leonardo Di Caprio attending NBC up front press conference for his 1990 series Parenthood in Los Angeles (Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images)
GROWING PAINS - Gallery - Shoot Date: September 28, 1991. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) LEONARDO DICAPRIO
NEW YORK - 1995: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio poses for a photo in 1995 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Catherine McGann/Getty Images)
CANADA - APRIL 14: Leonardo Dicaprio (Photo by Boris Spremo/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Photo by Terry McGinnis/WireImage)
(L-R) Actor Leonardo DiCaprio w. model Bridget Hall. (Photo by Dave Allocca/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Young American actor Leonardo DiCaprio. (Photo by Darlene Hammond/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - APRIL 16: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio departs for Dallas, Texas on April 16, 1993 from the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Leonardo DiCaprio and Dennis Hopper during Red Rock West party - 1994 at Club USA in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Leonardo DiCaprio at the The Academy in Beverly Hills, CA. (Photo by Barry King/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 22: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and mother Irmelin Indenbirken attend the 51st Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 22, 1994 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Leonardo DiCaprio during 1992 MTV Rock n Jock Basketball at Bren Center in Irvine, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 8: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio attends the 'True Romance' Hollywood Premiere on September 8, 1993 at the Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Headshot of American actor Leonardo DiCaprio, circa 1991. (Photo by Fotos International/Getty Images)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
1996: Headshot of American actor Leonardo DiCaprio with his hair in bangs. (Photo by Jean Cummings/Fotos International/Getty Images)
Leonardo DiCaprio & Claire Danes during 'Romeo & Juliet' Premiere in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Actor Mark Wahlberg and actor Leonardo DiCaprio attend 'The Basketball Diaries' New York City Premiere on April 14, 1995 at Sony Village 7 in New York City.
UNITED STATES - circa 1995: Leonardo Dicaprio (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - circa 1995: Leonardo Dicaprio (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Leonardo DiCaprio & Kristen Zang (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Leonardo DiCaprio & Kevin Connolly during 1999 Comic Relief at Six Flags Magic Mountain. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Leonardo DiCaprio during 'Titanic' Los Angeles Premiere, 1997 at Mann Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Leo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet at the 1998 Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 18: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio (L) arrives with co-star Kate Winslet for the 55th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton 18 January in Beverly Hills, CA. DiCaprio is nominated for Best Actor in the drama category for his role in 'Titanic'. 'Titanic' is also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress in the same category. (Photo credit should read HAL GARB/AFP/Getty Images)
Leonardo DiCaprio wearing glasses at the Romeo and Juliet premiere - 1st March 1997 (Photo by Fred Duval/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 7: Actor Leonardo Di Caprio (C) and model Gisele Bundchen (L) attend the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz on December 7, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - JANUARY 9: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio attends the after party for the Irish Premiere of 'Gangs of New York' in the Burlington Hotel Dublin, Ireland January 9, 2003. The film is based on Herbert Ashbury's novel about two New York gangs in the mid-19th century. (Photo by ShowBizIreland.com/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 17: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio attends the West Coast premiere of the film 'Gangs of New York' at the Directors Guild of America on December 17, 2002 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, UNITED STATES: Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio accepts the Outstanding Directing Award on behalf of director Martin Scorsese at the Hollywood Film Festival's Gala Ceremony and Hollywood Movie Awards, in Beverly Hills, CA, 07 October 2002. AFP PHOTO/Lucy NICHOLSON (Photo credit should read LUCY NICHOLSON/AFP/Getty Images)
388629 07: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio attends NBA playoff game between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers May 6, 2001 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Newsmakers)
Actors Leonardo Dicaprio and Robert Deniro at The Concert for New York City to benefit the victims of the World Trade Center disaster at Madison Square Garden in New York City. October 20, 2001 (Photo: Scott Gries/ImageDirect)
GERMANY - FEBRUARY 12: Leonardo Di Caprio At Premiere Of 'The Beach' At Berlin Film Festival In Berlin, Germany On February 12, 2000. (Photo by Patrick PIEL/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
TODAY -- NBC NEWS -- Pictured: (l-r) Co-anchor Matt Lauer during an interview with actor Leonardo DiCaprio who talks about his new film 'Blood Diamond' on December 1, 2006. The interview will air Wednesday, December 6 on NBC (7-10a.m. ET) (Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Leonardo DiCaprio at the Brompton Hall in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Eamonn McCormack/WireImage)
LONDON - SEPTEMBER 21: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) (L-R) Designer Giorgio Armani and actor Leonardo DiCaprio attend the fashion show and party to celebrate the launch of Emporio Armani RED collection, at Earls Court on September 21, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)
Leonardo DiCaprio during 'The Departed' Press Conference with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and Martin Scorsese at Regency Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD - FEBRUARY 27: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, nominated for Best Actor for his role in 'The Aviator,' arrives with girlfriend Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen at the 77th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater on February 27, 2005 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 16: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio with his award for Best Actor, Drama and actress Hilary Swank with her award for Best Actress, Drama pose in the press room during the 62nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel January 16, 2005 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 16: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio poses with his award for 'Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama' during the 62nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel January 16, 2005 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - CA, DECEMBER 2: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio talks at the Friends of NPI (National Neuropsychiatric Institute) pre screening of 'The Aviator' at the Egyptian Theatre on December 2, 2004 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MARCH 24: Actors Lukas Haas (L) and Leonardo DiCaprio attend the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings on March 24, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 8: Writer/director Michael Moore (L) and actor Leonardo DiCaprio arrive at a screening of Michael Moore's 'Fahrenheit 9/11' on June 8, 2004 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - AUGUST 13: Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John Kerry (R) (D-MA) plays around with actor Leonardo Di Caprio during a rally August 13, 2004 in Portland, Oregon. Tens of thousands of people attended a rally to top off Kerry's two week 'Believe in America' bus and train tour across America. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 6: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio arrives at 'Turn Up The Heat-Fight Global Warming', a benefit to help the Natural Resources Defense Council, featuring a concert performance by the Rolling Stones at the Staples Center on February 6, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Actor and co-chair Leonardo DiCaprio attends LACMA's Art And Film Gala Honoring Clint Eastwood And John Baldessari at LACMA on November 5, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
Cast member Leonardo DiCaprio arrives at the world premiere of 'J. Edgar,' the opening Night Gala of AFI FEST 2011 at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California November 3, 2011. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 22: (L-R) Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jeffrey Katzenberg attend a game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on December 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 25: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio attends Natural Resources Defense Council's 20th anniversary celebration at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on April 25, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 27: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and girlfriend model Bar Refaeli sit courtside during Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on April 27, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 17: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio attends the Armani / 5th Avenue store opening at Armani / 5th Avenue on February 17, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/WireImage for Giorgio Armani)
WESTWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 15: Kate Winslet and actor Leonardo DiCaprio arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of 'Revolutionary Road' at the Mann Village Theater on December 15, 2008 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
US actor Leonardo DiCaprio attends the UK Premiere of the film 'Body of Lies' at the Vue cinema in London's Leicester Square on November 06, 2008. AFP PHOTO/Shaun Curry (Photo credit should read SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images)
MOROCCO - DECEMBER 07: Leonardo DiCaprio in Marrakech, Kingdom of Morocco on December 07th, 2007. (Photo by Pierre HOUNSFIELD/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 04: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio speaks during the 2013-2014 Variety Screening of 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' at Chelsea Bow Tie Cinemas on February 4, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 18: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio attends the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Official Academy Members screening of 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' at the Academy Theater at Lighthouse International on December 18, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 17: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio attends the 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on December 17, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)
US actor Leonardo DiCaprio poses during a photocall of Shutter Island on February 8, 2010 in Rome. Shutter Island is the fourth collaboration between US director Martin Scorsese and his favorite actor Leonardo DiCaprio. AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/GettyImages)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 13: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio (L) and Director Clint Eastwood attend the 12th Annual AFI Awards held at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on January 13, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 12: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio speaks onstage during the 17th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards held at The Hollywood Palladium on January 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 23: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio speaks at the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23, 2014 in New York City. The summit, which is meeting one day before the UN General Assembly begins, is bringing together world leaders, scientists and activists looking to curb climate change. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio walks down 6th Avenue during the People's Climate March on September 21, 2014, in New York. Activists mobilized in cities across the globe Sunday for marches against climate change, with one of the biggest planned for New York, where celebrities, political leaders and tens of thousands of people were expected. The march comes before the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convenes a climate change summit of 120 world leaders . AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. Clary (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio (3rd R) walks down 6th Avenue during the People's Climate March on September 21, 2014, in New York. Activists mobilized in cities across the globe Sunday for marches against climate change, with one of the biggest planned for New York, where celebrities, political leaders and tens of thousands of people were expected. The march comes before the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convenes a climate change summit of 120 world leaders . AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. Clary (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: Leonardo Dicaprio speaks at the 8th Annual Clinton Global Citizen Awards at Sheraton Times Square on September 21, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
US actor Leonardo DiCaprio poses during the designate ceremony as UN Messenger of Peace at the United Nations September 20, 2014 in New York . The 69th session of the UN General Assembly begins next week. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
US actor Leonardo DiCaprio poses for photo after attending a press conference which announced further business divestment from fossil fuels in New York on September 22, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
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Pattinson has already copped to pissing his pants and eating mud for the role, but there were emotional constraints as well. “Robert Eggers likes to shoot these long sequences in one shot,” Pattinson says, “and you have scenes that have to go all over the place emotionally, and involve stunt work, crying, being obliterated drunk, and trying to sustain the energy while also speaking this quite ornate language in a slightly obscure accent.”

The film was shot on location in Nova Scotia, where the crew built sets from scratch and shot on a century-old camera. Pattinson found some of the physical challenges invigorating. “It’s sleeting one minute, then it’s sunny, then it’s snowing, so you experience every season in an hour,” he says. “That would be really irritating if you had to play against it, but that was exactly the environment that the characters were experiencing, so having the environment push back at you and force you to react was just great.”

The interplay between Pattinson and Willem Dafoe’s ornery ex-sailor boss makes clear that “The Lighthouse” is actually a pitch-black comedy. “It’s funny on the page, but when you’re experiencing it on set, freezing cold, covered in fake shit, you’re not trying to play it for laughs. You’re making yourself the butt of the joke. It was funny on purpose, but also funny in its audacity. The scene where I’m criticizing Willem’s cooking, there was literally two pages where we were just saying ‘What?’ to each other. It’s a kind of slapstick.”
Pattinson is a known quantity, but the lead actor category often makes room for newcomers. This category could include a youngster such as Roman Griffin Davis, who makes his debut in Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit,” or Paul Walter Hauser, a veteran character actor whom Clint Eastwood cast as the lead role of his upcoming drama “Richard Jewell.”

Hauser says he was as surprised as anyone when he got the call. He was doing a film with Spike Lee in Thailand, and when someone mentioned that Eastwood was considering him as the lead in his new movie, “It didn’t sound like a real thing to me,” Hauser says. But he could sense a potential big break, and decided to put other offers on hold.

“I voted with my heart instead of my wallet or my brain, and decided to wait and see,” he says. After wrapping in Thailand, he flew back to L.A. and met with Eastwood, who said he wanted Hauser as the eponymous Jewell, the real-life Atlanta security guard who went from hero to potential suspect in the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing.

“It wasn’t an audition so much as it was Clint having an instinct and the support of his casting director,” Hauser says. “He’d barely seen me in anything. Maybe ‘I, Tonya’ and ‘BlackKklansman.’ Maybe a combined total of 25 minutes onscreen.”

There is one stumbling block on Hauser’s potential Oscar path. No one has seen “Richard Jewell” yet, not even Hauser.

But he knows enough about the character, and Eastwood’s directorial track record, to think the film will strike a chord. “I think it will resonate with all people, because we’ve all either been described in a way we wouldn’t agree with, or been accused of something we don’t think we did. I think there’s just something fundamental about wanting justice and not being able to defend yourself.”

Three additional yet-to-be-released films feature marquee actors playing a man fighting an uphill battle against systemic injustice: Michael B. Jordan in “Just Mercy,” Adam Driver in “The Report” and Mark Ruffalo in Todd Haynes’ environmental thriller “Dark Waters.”

Ruffalo produced “Dark Waters,” which is based on the true story of Rob Billott, a corporate defense lawyer who, facing a crisis of conscience, decides to take on a dark secret at the heart of one of the world’s largest corporations.

“We’re earnestly having this discussion about overall systems that are failing us, and I felt like this story really captured it,” Ruffalo says.
In certain ways, this is as concrete a good vs. evil story as you can find. But Ruffalo says he didn’t have to look far to discover the psychological complexity in the role.

“A lot of it was just being as honest as possible to who Rob Billott is,” Ruffalo says. “He’s not someone who grandstands, or puts a lot of emotion into his work. He never allows that to lead him. That dispassionate approach makes it a difficult problem to work out as an actor. The conflict that he had, sacrificing materialism and prestige and family to do this work, in an America that puts materialism above all else, it’s a kind of spiritual journey. To do that in today’s America is deeply psychologically conflicting.”

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