THEATRICAL MOTION PICTURE
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Casey Affleck (left) with Brad Pitt in 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford'

Casey Affleck (left) with Brad Pitt in 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford'

Casey Affleck
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
After his breakout performance as the title assassin in Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, we might not have to refer to Casey Affleck as “Ben Affleck’s kid brother” anymore. In a role that in some ways mirrors his own life and career, Affleck plays Robert Ford, a young man who is largely ignored or ridiculed while living in the shadow of his hero, the famed outlaw Jesse James. While there is an almost unending wealth of material surrounding the Jesse James myth, almost nothing is known about the real Robert Ford. So Affleck got into character by doing just what Ford did: He studied Jesse James.

“[Ford] read all the comic books,” Affleck told Premiere. “He knew every detail of his life. He committed all the dates and places and train robberies to memory. So that is really what I focused on.”

Affleck adds a haunting and creepy vulnerability to his performance in Jesse James. Whereas his boyish face might have kept him from being considered as a serious contender before – think about forgettable supporting roles in Good Will Hunting and Ocean’s 11 – Affleck has matured suddenly as a man and as an actor, turning in a particularly strong year with Jesse James and Gone Baby Gone, his brother’s feature directorial debut. The younger Affleck’s role as Robert Ford relies partly on this juxtaposition: a grown man who looks like a scrawny little kid and as a result carries a chip on his shoulder and needs to fight that much harder to earn the respect he feels he deserves. Affleck may play a “coward,” but he has certainly earned our respect.

For this role, Casey Affleck won a National Board of Review Award and is nominated for a Golden Globe. This is his first SAG nomination.

Tom Wilkinson
Michael Clayton

Although George Clooney stars as the title character in Michael Clayton, the first voice we hear is that of Tom Wilkinson. He is delivering a rambling phone message as bipolar star litigator Arthur Edens. The rant doesn’t make much sense at first, delivered in the manic and deranged speech of a man who’s off his medication. But what seems like nonsensical babble becomes the central driving force of this legal thriller.

British character actor Wilkinson steals every scene he’s in as the brilliant but mercurial Edens, an American attorney at the law firm of Kenner, Bach & Leeden. Edens has spent six years defending the “progressive” agrochemical company U/North, which manufactured a weed killer that resulted in several hundred deaths on family farms. The film follows the unraveling of a case that the law firm would rather continue than end, so it can milk the corporation for more fees. Edens disrupts that plan when he stops taking his medication and loses his marbles, strips naked in a deposition, starts speaking gibberish, and threatens to deliver damning evidence to the other side.

The trick is that Wilkinson plays his character’s manic delirium as a heightened form of awareness, a sudden burst of clarity in a morally corrupt world. His innards eaten by guilt, he has finally come to his senses and is ready to make amends. That is, if anyone will let him. Wilkinson gives such depth to the fallen mentor figure of Edens that we end up sympathizing more with him than with Clayton. With a mix of childlike innocence and a lawyer’s savvy, Wilkinson creates the most memorable character in a film full of rich portraits.

For this role, Tom Wilkinson is nominated for a Golden Globe. He won SAG Awards as a member of the ensemble of “The Full Monty” in 1998 and as a member of the “Shakespeare in Love” ensemble in 1999. He was nominated in 2002 individually and as a member of the ensemble of “In the Bedroom.”  

THEATRICAL MOTION PICTURE
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in 'I'm Not There'

Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in 'I'm Not There'

Cate Blanchett
I’m Not There
Cate Blanchett is no stranger to playing real-life historical figures, with award-winning performances as Queen Elizabeth (Elizabeth) and Katharine Hepburn (The Aviator) on her résumé. Playing Jude Quinn, however – one of six versions of the enigmatic chameleon Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There – Blanchett outdoes herself and becomes the powerful central force of a film populated with great performances. In costume the actor looks more like Dylan than Dylan does, with her electrified shock of hair and dark glasses that recall the singer’s twitchy, amphetamine-fueled mid-1960s transition from folk to rock. But Blanchett’s performance is more than mere mimicry. She is able to get under his famous skin to reveal a vulnerable soul behind the caustic and wisecracking exterior. Blanchett’s Jude thus becomes a character that is one part truth, another part fantasy composite.

In the film, a line of original dialogue is followed by an interview transcription or a Dylan song lyric. “Dylan’s obviously riffing, finding that stuff in the moment,” Blanchett told The New York Times. “And it’s the difference between doing that and also knowing that this is a reference to something that has already been said.” In finding the immediacy of the moment even while reciting words that many Dylan fans might have memorized, she has created something, and someone, entirely new.

For this role, Cate Blanchett is nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award and won a Spirit Award as a member of the ensemble, and she is nominated for a Golden Globe. She won SAG Awards for “The Aviator” in 2005 and as part of the “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” ensemble in 2004; she was nominated for her work in “Elizabeth” in 1999, “Bandits” in 2002, and “Notes on a Scandal” in 2007 and as a member of the ensembles of “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” in 2002, “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” in 2003, “The Aviator,” and “Babel” in 2007. She is also nominated for a SAG Award for her leading role in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age.”

The 2008 “SAG Awards Voters Guide” was published in the Jan. 10-16, 2008 issue of Back Stage and online at BackStage.com.

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