Recall the Gold: The 1993 Best Supporting Actor race

Tommyleejones_lThe supporting acting Academy Award categories often give unsung and unknown performers a chance to shine, and that was certainly the case with the 1993 Best Supporting Actor nominees, a group that included two or three unforgettable villains and at least three starmaking performances. Ralph Fiennes went from unknown to star overnight with his chilling turn as the Nazi commandant in Schindler’s List. Pete Postlethwaite also found himself suddenly on the map, thanks to his understated but devastating performance as Daniel Day-Lewis’ dad and cellmate from In the Name of the Father. Leonardo DiCaprio went from promising child actor to serious thespian with his thoroughly convincing portrayal of Johnny Depp’s developmentally disabled brother in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. John Malkovich found his signature bad-guy role as the would-be presidential assassin who toys with Clint Eastwood from In the Line of Fire. And Tommy Lee Jones, after two decades as a reliable character actor, became a bankable star for the rest of his career with his all-business turn as the relentless marshal who pursues Harrison Ford in The Fugitive.

Fiennes might have ridden the momentum that allowed Schindler to sweep the Oscars that year, but perhaps the Academy figured he and DiCaprio and Postlethwaite were new talents who’d have another shot at a statuette later. That left two actors who played antagonists in big box-office hit action movies. Malkovich was typically excellent, but voters may have felt he was just playing a typical Malkovich villain. That left Jones, who seemed to rise above the genre material and make his character a real person, even a sympathetic one. Jones won the trophy, though 15 years later, it’s DiCaprio’s performance that still astonishes, Postlethwaite’s that still seems sadly underrated, and Fiennes’ that still freezes the blood.

Looking back from today’s perspective, which of these performances doyou think is the best? Vote in our poll, and list your comments below.(For a refresher, watch the clips embedded after the jump, whichmay contain some NSFW language.) Remember, we’ll be running the Recall the Gold surveys every Tuesdayand Thursday until January, so you may go back at any time and vote inthe other polls (click hereto see them all), reexamining the Oscar races of 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25years ago. On Thursday, Nov. 6, we’ll look at the 1988 Best Actorcompetition. Watch also for commentary and context throughout,including on Dave Karger’s new Oscar Watch blog.

addCredit(“M. Bourquard/Retna”)

Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List

Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive

John Malkovich in In the Line of Fire

Pete Postlethwaite in In the Name of the Father

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  • Ceballos

    What a terrific race! I know it’s the PC thing to say, but I honestly would’ve been happy with ANY of them winning. (Ok, maybe not Malkovich, which is really just one notch over the stock psycho role in an action movie. Also, he should’ve been nominated for “Being John Malkovich a few years later.)
    I recently watched “Schindler’s List”, but even back then I thought Fiennes deserved the statue. However, I’m totally ok with Tommy Lee Jones’ win.
    If it’s possible for an Oscar-winning performance to be underrated, I think his work in “The Fugitive” is a little underrated. I don’t know how many other actors can make that character sympathetic, as this article pointed out. I also LOVE that, back in ’93, it was possible for an actor in a big action movie to pick up an Oscar nom and a win.

  • Cara

    I agree they’re all great performances, but for me, Ralph Fiennes is still by far the most impressive here. Just — well, I don’t have the words for it. His performance is that amazing.

  • Rob Grizzly

    I like the Tommy Lee Jones win. No problems with it. He was awesome in The Fugitive.

  • teresa

    I’ll the race that needs to be redone is 93 best actor, and that travesty goes all the way back to ’73. in ’93 pacino won over denzel for scent of a woman (vs. malcolm X please). a sympathy award he played a blind man plus to appease him for their slight in passing him over in the GODFATHER for jack lemmon in save the tiger. SERIOUSLY!!! it only got worse when washington won for training day when it should’ve rightfully gone to crowe for beautiful mind.

  • pai

    OH BOY do I want a do-over here.
    The work that Ralph Fiennes did is unparalleled. He did the absolute unthinkable. He made that completely abominable character a human being not that you felt sorry for, but that you understood. It was a tour de force performance. And not the fun of Tommy Lee Jones or the top-notch skill Pete Postlethwaite displayed comes near it. Not to take away from any of the other actors, Fiennes gave a performance for all time.

  • sarita

    i agree with the ralph fiennes camp. he convinced me he was pure evil, so much so that i couldn’t watch films with him in it without seeing amon goeth instead of the other character. strange that he plays voldemort in the harry potter films, a character whom some believe is an allegory for hitler.

  • teeps

    I remember vividly being completely and utterly astounded that Fiennes didn’t win the Oscar that year. I mean, Jones was good in the Fugitive and that was a crowd pleaser, but cmon! Do you really REMEMBER much about Jones’ performance? I can still remember every detail about how utterly uncomfortable Fiennes made me when I saw Schindler’s List. The movie would have been nowhere near as effective with a lesser actor as the main villain. Do OVER, please.

  • tex mex

    I could not watch Schindler’s List – just too hard for me. So I can’t single out Fiennes as the best, though I have no doubt that he was awesome.
    Every time I watch Gilbert Grape, though, I am truly astonished by Leo’s brilliance. But he’ll win in the future.

  • Rahul

    There may be some prejudice involved in my choice of Ralph Fiennes because ‘Schindler’s List’ is one of my all time favorite films, but his performance was so frightening and maniacally controlled, the anti-thesis to Liam Neeson’s Oskar Schindler, that he truly deserved the win. The film truly deserved an acting award.
    I understand why Tommy Lee Jones commanding and somewhat improvised performance won since the audience eventually saw him morph into the co-hero of ‘The Fugitive’ once his character discovered the truth, but I feel it was ultimately a flashy role that another actor could’ve also knocked out of the park. I can’t think of anyone else who could’ve matched Fiennes’ Amon Goeth, therefore I believe he deserved the win.

  • rafael


  • GHB

    Teresa, in 1973 Al Pacino (Serpico) lost best actor to Jack Lemmon (Save The Tiger.) Pacino was nominated for best supporting actor for 1972’s The Godfather and as best actor for 1974’s sequel.

  • steve

    Tommy Lee Jones deserved it. He was also amazing in ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ with Sissy Spacek!

  • Nathan

    Ralph Fiennes deserved the Oscar, but I can understand Jones getting it a la the “you’ve been around forever and never won” vote.

  • ia

    Sometimes the Academy Awards voters just don’t get it…Ralph Fiennes deserved the ’93 Best Supporting Actor for “Schindler’s List” hands down regardless if Fiennes was an actor no one knew about. “Newbies” deserve to win “first time out of the gate.” I hope that if Fiennes is nominated for his ’08 performance in “The Duchess,” he will get his golden boy named Oscar!!

  • katy

    EW, will you PLEASE recall the gold for Jennifer Connelly’s milquetoast performance in “A Beautiful Mind”–for which she beat out Ellen Burstyn’s blistering turn in “Requiem for a Dream”?

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