There are few comedic actors who are incapable of doing drama. After all, it's harder to do comedy. Also, a lot of great dramatic performances are achieved through the aid of great dramatic directors. Milos Forman can do amazing things with someone like Jim Carrey, and the same goes for Paul Thomas Anderson and Adam Sandler. Combine a star who is mostly known for wisecracks and slapstick with the right filmmaker and you see people like Jonah Hill and Mo'nique nominated for, or even win, Academy Awards.
Hill's first encounter with Oscar came about thanks to Bennett Miller, who directed the Superbad funnyman in Moneyball. Now Miller has a new movie with its own awards buzz for another comedic actor in a serious role: Steve Carell in Foxcatcher. Carell has delivered dramatic turns before, notably in Little Miss Sunshine and Dan in Real Life, but nothing so "transformative" as his real shot at gold, portraying real-life multimillionaire and murderer John du Pont with help from prosthetics rendering him near unrecognizable.
If Carell doesn't get a nomination (and we can't yet say if he deserves one), that won't be a huge surprise. Last year at this time, Ben Stiller had a bit of Oscar buzz for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but it didn't pan out. Carrey has never been nominated in spite of great dramatic turns in Foreman's Man in the Moon, as well as The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Sandler was similarly overlooked in the few instances where he went dramatic, including for Anderson's Punch Drunk Love.
Not all of these guys are necessarily chasing the prestige of Academy recognition. Some, like Bill Murray, could probably care less even if his fans would love to see him eventually fully honored for the reinvented career he achieved. Notice that for some, it especially helps the person if they've made a comeback with a drama, like Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls. So we don't just need to look at potentials like Will Ferrell or Anna Faris (who should be more recognized as today's Goldie Hawn) but also maybe Mike Myers and Joan Cusack.
I also could see John Leguizamo doing something Oscar worthy, as he showed great promise a while back in the Ecuadorian film Cronicas. And for the funny women, I think Emma Stone has the best shot, if only she'd get to work on better movies. And/or if her continued work with Woody Allen leads to something great.
What comedic actor or actress would you like to see give an Oscar-worthy dramatic performance?
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