Ford v Ferrari stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale will compete against each other in the Best Actor category at this year's Oscars. Based on a true story, the latest from director James Mangold chronicles the Ford Motor Company's attempt to defeat powerhouse Ferrari at Les Mans. Carroll Shelby (Damon) is hired to craft a new car that can win the race, and he recruits Ken Miles (Bale) to be Ford's driver. Ford v Ferrari played at some of the fall film festivals (including Telluride and Toronto), earning positive reviews. The general consensus is that it may not reinvent the sports biopic wheel, but it's still an entertaining time at the movies.
As a result, Ford v Ferrari is one of the titles hoping to score some key Academy Award nominations this season. In addition to Best Picture, Fox will also be gunning for categories like directing and acting. Since both Damon and Bale are front and center, there were questions about how the studio would handle their campaign. Typically in a situation like this, one is selected as the Best Actor contender, while the other goes in Best Supporting Actor. But Fox is going the unconventional route with this one.
According to Deadline, Fox plans to campaign for both Damon and Bale in the Best Actor category, pitting the two stars against each other on the awards circuit. Previously, many theorized one of them (most likely Bale) would be the Supporting Actor candidate, so there wasn't an internal competition. Still, early reviews have remarked the two are essentially co-leads in Ford v Ferrari, so this decision is logical.
The inherent danger here is Damon and Bale could end up splitting votes with each other and miss out on a nomination. At the same time, it's worth wondering how strong either of their chances were to begin with. As is usually the case, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor are stacked with big names and bravura performances - ones that even the likes of Damon and Bale would struggle to surge ahead of. In the former category, the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Adam Driver, and Joaquin Phoenix are in the running, while the latter sports Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, and Tom Hanks. It would be one thing if Ford v Ferrari was one of the clear Best Picture frontrunners; then it might have a good shot of landing an acting nomination or two. But as of now, it's arguably in the second tier of contenders, the films that will likely make the Best Picture lineup, but have an uphill climb in the other major categories.
Of course, it's still very early in the process, and it remains to be seen how the 2020 Oscars race shapes up. Until the various precursors (like the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, etc.) start weighing in, all cinephiles can do is make predictions based on word-of-mouth and reviews. Maybe Ford v Ferrari catches on with voters in a bigger way than anticipated, and one of Damon and Bale sneaks into Best Actor. The odds of both of them getting in are low, but Fox is obviously confident in what they have. It'll be interesting to keep tabs on the Oscar circuit for the next several months.
- Ford v. Ferrari (2019) release date: Nov 15, 2019