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#OscarsSoWhite? Here’s How Diverse Next Year’s Awards Hopefuls Could Be

Will Smith, Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana and three ”Star Wars“ actors could all be in contention next year

When this year’s Oscar nominations were announced, revealing 20 white acting nominees, a global controversy erupted that spawned the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which promptly began trending on social media. On Tuesday, Congressman Tony Cardenas jumped into the fray, writing a letter to AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and all of Hollywood’s major studio heads to express his disappointment in seeing “such a revered American institution fail to fully reflect our nation.”

While David Oyelowo was certainly overlooked this year for his bold turn as Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma,” to name one example, the truth is that there simply wasn’t a large pool of non-white candidates to choose from. Fortunately, Hollywood is cyclical, and the coming year offers no shortage of strong awards contenders of color.

Here is TheWrap’s 20 worthwhile predictions for next year’s Oscar nominees, and this is just how non-white the lineup could be:
Idris Elba, “Beasts of No Nation”
Will Smith, “Concussion”
Michael B. Jordan, “Creed”
Don Cheadle, “Miles Ahead”
Javier Bardem, “The Last Face”

The Breakdown: Smith and Cheadle are playing real-life people, a tactic that often resonates with the Academy. Smith plays Dr. Bennett Omalu, who was at the forefront of the NFL’s CTE discussions, in Ridley Scott‘s “Concussion,” while Cheadle plays jazz musician Miles Davis in his own directorial debut. Meanwhile, Bardem plays a doctor who falls for Charlize Theron while working in Africa in a romantic drama directed by Sean Penn. Elba plays the commandant of a group of child soldiers, and Jordan plays the son of Rocky Balboa’s foe-turned-friend Apollo Creed in Ryan Coogler’s follow-up to “Fruitvale Station.” The Academy loves its boxing movies, as evidenced by “Rocky’s” Best Picture win.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, “Concussion”
Zoe Saldana, “Nina”
Sarita Choudhury, “A Hologram for the King”
Naomie Harris, “Our Kind of Traitor”
Viola Davis or Jennifer Lopez, “Lila & Eve”

The Breakdown: Mbatha-Raw plays Will Smith’s wife in “Concussion” and she’ll have to do plenty of dramatic lifting in that role. Saldana plays singer Nina Simone in Cynthia Mort’s “Nina,” while Davis and Lopez play grieving mothers who take the law into their own hands in the revenge thriller “Lila & Eve,” which was met with approval at Sundance. “Skyfall’s” Harris plays the female lead alongside Ewan McGregor in the John le Carré adaptation “Our Kind of Traitor,” while Choudhury plays the female lead opposite Tom Hanks in Tom Tykwer’s adaptation of Dave Eggers’ Saudi Arabia novel “A Hologram for the King.”

Tadanobu Asano, “Silence”
Forest Whitaker, “Southpaw”
Ken Watanabe, “Sea of Trees”
Samuel L. Jackson, “The Hateful Eight”
Benicio Del Toro, “Sicario”

The Breakdown: Asano took over the translator role in Martin Scorsese’s Jesuit priest drama “Silence” from Watanabe, who plays a man in despair opposite a suicidal Matthew McConaughey in Gus Van Sant’s “Sea of Trees.” Jackson plays Major Marquis Warren in Quentin Tarantino’s western “The Hateful Eight,” while Whitaker plays Jake Gyllenhaal’s trainer in Antoine Fuqua’s boxing movie “Southpaw.” Whitaker’s fellow Oscar winner Del Toro co-stars alongside Emily Blunt and and Josh Brolin in Denis Villenueve’s crime drama “Sicario.”

Lupita Nyong’o, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Emayatzy Corinealdi, “Miles Ahead”
Tessa Thompson, “Creed”
Phylicia Rashad, “Creed”
Viola Davis, “Blackhat”

The Breakdown: Thompson and Rashad play Michael B. Jordan’s girlfriend and mother, respectively, in “Creed,” and depending on their screentime, each actress could leave an emotional mark on the young fighter. Michael Mann’s “Blackhat” flopped earlier this year but nearly every review singled out Davis as being the highlight of the film, in which she co-stars as a strong FBI agent. Corinealdi, who earned rave reviews for her work in Ava DuVernay’s “Middle of Nowhere,” plays Miles Davis’ first wife Frances Taylor in “Miles Head.” Finally, Nyong’o is following up her Oscar-winning performance in “12 Years a Slave” with a rumored as an antagonist of sorts in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: Episode VII,” and as well all know, the Academy loves to reward villains in the supporting categories.


Ryan Coogler, “Creed”
Cary Fukunaga, “Beasts of No Nation”
F. Gary Gray, “Straight Outta Compton”
Alejandro González Iñárritu, “The Revenant”
Guillermo del Toro, “Crimson Peak”

The Breakdown: “Birdman” director Iñárritu will surely return to the Oscar conversation for his gritty thriller “The Revenant” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. “Creed” is a passion project for Coogler, who could’ve done anything after “Fruitvale Station,” but instead focused on a fresh take that could restore the “Rocky” franchise to glory. Fukunaga is tackling the Oscar-ready story of child soldiers in West Africa and is coming off HBO’s critically acclaimed first season of “True Detective.” Del Toro is putting his own spin on the well-worn haunted house movie with his star-studded “Crimson Peak,” while Gray has the biggest awards opportunity of his career with the powerful N.W.A. story “Straight Outta Compton.” If we had to pick an alternate nominee at this stage, it would be promising filmmaker Jonás Cuarón, who co-wrote “Gravity” and returns with the Mexican border drama “Desierto” starring Gael García Bernal.

10 More Actors Who Could Be in the Awards Conversation Next Year
John Boyega, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “The Secret in Their Eyes”/”The Martian”/”Triple Nine”/”Z for Zachariah”
Oscar Isaac, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”/”Ex Machina”/”Mojave”
O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell, “Straight Outta Compton”
Anthony Mackie, “Our Brand Is Crisis”/”Untitled Christmas Eve Project”
Eddie Murphy, “Cook”
David Oyelowo, “Nina”
Dev Patel, “The Man Who Knew Infinity”/”Lion”/”Chappie”
Edgar Ramirez, “Hands of Stone”/”Joy”

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