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Whose Legacy Would Benefit More from an Oscar Win in 2024?

With the nominations being announced last week for the upcoming Oscars, many people are placing their picks on who is going to take home the golden statue in their respective categories. One category that holds a ton of weight this year is the Best Supporting Actor category. The reason being that many movie lovers have whittled it down to two favorites in that category: Robert De Niro for Killers of the Flowers Moon and Robert Downey Jr. for Oppenheimer.



These are two titans of the profession who gave us two of the most memorable performances of this past year in any film. Now, they might be overlooked and not even win on March 10th, but many strongly doubt that. These are two actors who have left behind a lasting legacy of their craft. The key word there is legacy. This could be a win that cements who they were to moviegoers on the big screen, so who does that idea play more to with a win on Oscar night?


Robert Downey Jr. Legacy Benefit’s Greatly with a Win on Oscar Night

Robert Downey Jr. in Oppenheimer
Universal Pictures

Robert Downey Jr. is now a three-time Oscar nominee with his nomination for Oppenheimer. He was previously nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2009 for Tropic Thunder, but lost out to Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight. He would also lose in the Best Actor category in 1993 for the biopic Chaplin, where he portrayed silent film icon Charlie Chaplin, a loss he has said he is grateful for. This is compared to De Niro’s now 9th Oscar nomination for Killers of the Flower Moon. If you want to play the numbers game, then it may favor Robert Downey Jr. He’s earned the right by industry standards, plus a third time’s a charm.

“There’s a flip side to that coin,” though. De Niro’s been nominated periodically throughout the last forty years. His last win was for Best Actor for Raging Bull back in 1981. At 80 years old, De Niro did not show us any signs of slowing down this year. His portrayal of William King Hale in Killers of the Flower Moon was powerful, manipulative, and utterly evil. De Niro has the ability to outshine many when he is in a supporting role.

Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer

Release Date
July 21, 2023

Cast
Cillian Murphy , Matt Damon , Robert Downey Jr. , Emily Blunt , Florence Pugh , Gary Oldman , Josh Hartnett , Jack Quaid , Kenneth Branagh , Rami Malek , Alex Wolff , Matthew Modine

Rent on Apple TV

Related: Killers of the Flower Moon’s Streaming Release Was the Perfect Plan All Along

De Niro Has Been to the Top of the Mountain

Robert De Niro wins Oscar for The Godfather Part II
Academy of Motion Picture Sciences 

Robert De Niro has two Oscar wins under his belt, and although the Academy is known for awarding an actor who has been in a drought of being nominated and never winning, they also know when others are due for their time at center stage giving an acceptance speech. Robert Downey Jr. has the upper hand in the sense that he has not had much of an opportunity to ever have award-season buzz.

He has spent the better part of the last decade and a half tied to superhero movies. Something we all love him for doing, and the fact that he took the time after his run as Iron Man in the MCU to find the right role, and it came in the form of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, shows you how careful he has been in moving his career forward with the kind of roles he wanted. With respect to Mr. De Niro and all his accomplishments, RDJ is playing a better hand this time around.

Stream on Apple TV+

Related: Robert Downey Jr. Turns Oppenheimer’s Success into Comic Relief for Christopher Nolan

Robert Downey Jr. Really Flexes His Acting Skills in Oppenheimer

Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss sitting a dinner table with a suit on in Oppenheimer
Universal Pictures

The problem actors have with playing one role for too long is that they become tied to it for the rest of their careers. As perfect as Robert Downey Jr. was as Tony Stark/Iron Man in Marvel films, you knew he had the ability to show us more in other projects, but it never really got as far as maybe he even wanted it to until Oppenheimer. If Robert Downey Jr. had as much screen time as Cillian Murphy did in Oppenheimer, it would be a toss-up to who was better in the film.

In Oppenheimer, RDJ plays Lewis Strauss, the real-life character who was appointed by President Harry S. Truman as the founder of the Atomic Energy Council and a man who becomes a political foe to Oppenheimer. It’s a different angle and arc we usually see in the characters he portrays. Robert Downey Jr. has found himself stuck in fictional dramas and Sherlock Holmes movies in between Marvel films, so it’s a remarkable change of pace to see him play a real-life character that is portrayed as somewhat antagonistic to the film’s main character.

Robert Downey Jr. Is a Hollywood Tale of Redemption

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark in Iron Man
Marvel Studios

It feels like a lifetime ago, or even a made-up story of the danger Robert Downey Jr. was to himself as a young man. By the mid-to-late 1990s, he had fallen hard into a world of heroin and crack cocaine use. Even upon his announcement of him playing Iron Man back in 2007, some people thought having him play a superhero was a recipe for disaster.

The actor even had his own doubts. Over the last 15 or so years, Robert Downey Jr. has wiped the slate so cleanly off his troubled past of addiction that there seems to be no residue of his dark past. He is indeed one of the greatest comeback stories of all time.

Comebacks don’t happen overnight; it could take years of work in silence. We don’t know what he’s gone through, even when it looked like things were on the mend. His role in Oppenheimer warrants a win not just because he is a treat to watch and owns the screen time he has in the film, but also because of all that he has come back from. The Academy undergoes a lot of scrutiny about who they nominate, but if the performance warrants a win and the narrative behind it does too, then they usually don’t screw that up.

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