The 2018 awards race officially closed on Sunday, with the curtain coming down as Fox Searchlight’s The Shape Of Water triumphed at the Oscars.
While the 2019 race may feel like a distant prospect, the recent Sundance and Berlin festivals have kick-started murmurings about potential contenders, and already talk is turning to which releases could be leading the conversation come next year’s awards season.
First Man (Universal Pictures)
Despite La La Land having best picture snatched away by Moonlight at the 2017 Oscars, Damien Chazelle still walked away as the youngest ever winner of the best director prize. He’s likely to be back on the awards trail in 2019 with his Neil Armstrong biopic First Man, which will chronicle the life of the first astronaut to walk on the moon and is currently filming in the US. Ryan Gosling is starring alongside Claire Foy as Neil and Janet Armstrong; Oscar-winning screenwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight) penned the adaptation of James R Hansen’s authorised biography; and Chazelle’s La La Land collaborators Justin Hurwitz, Linus Sandgren and Tom Cross are back to handle the, respectively, music, cinematrography and editing. A biopic about an American hero: Universal will be feeling confident about this one.
If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna Pictures)
Moonlight director Barry Jenkins is shaping up to be an awards player again this year with his adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel about a pregnant woman in Harlem who races against the clock to prove her lover innocent of a crime. Newcomer KiKi Layne beat more than 300 fellow auditionees to land the lead role and will star alongside Regina King, Dave Franco and Diego Luna. This project is one of a number of high-profile original productions that Megan Ellison’s Annapurna will be touting in 2018 through the company’s new US distribution arm.
Mary Queen Of Scots (Focus Features/Working Title Films)
Two of this year’s best actress nominees, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, seem destined to be in contention again for their respective portrayals of the titular Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth I in this historical drama from UK powerhouse Working Title Films. The screenplay is by House Of Cards original showrunner Beau Willimon, while director Josie Rourke, artistic director at the Donmar Warehouse, makes her second film foray after 2011’s Much Ado About Nothing.
Backseat (Annapurna Pictures/Plan B Entertainment)
After picking up an Oscar for his The Big Short screenplay in 2016, writer-director Adam McKay is looking to be a candidate again with this biopic of former US vice president Dick Cheney. Christian Bale, who has gained weight for the role, is playing Cheney, and the supporting cast includes 2018 best supporting actor Sam Rockwell as George W Bush, Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney and Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld. In the current political climate, the film could be a contender if McKay strikes the right tone. The Plan B Entertainment team of Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Brad Pit produced the film with McKay, Kevin J Messick and Will Ferrell.
The Front Runner (Bron Studios)
Also tapping into the political climate could be Jason Reitman’s tale of US Senator Gary Hart, whose campaign in 1988 to be the Democratic candidate for president was derailed by revelations of an adulterous affair. Hugh Jackman stars as the beleaguered politician alongside JK Simmons and Vera Farmiga as Hart’s wife Lee. Bloom is handling international sales on the project, which has yet to line up a US distributor.