After much deliberation, Philip Seymour Hoffman and his representatives have decided to mount a Best Supporting Actor campaign for Doubt, which has emerged as one of the stronger awards contenders of the year. I had heard that’s the way it was leaning, but having now seen the film, I understand why it took so long for this decision to be made. As always, Hoffman is fantastic as a priest accused of molesting an altar boy, more than holding his own opposite a very commanding Meryl Streep. There are moments where the performance does feel like a lead role, particularly his pointed sermons and his centerpiece confrontation scenes with Streep. But then again, perhaps the most memorable sequence in the film is the head-to-head between Streep and Viola Davis, who plays the young boy’s mother. And Hoffman is not part of the movie’s final scene, which may be an argument for a supporting placement.
But let’s get real: This is all about getting nominated…and possibly winning. In the crowded Best Actor race, Hoffman would be fourth fiddle to Frost/Nixon’s Frank Langella, The Wrestler’s Mickey Rourke, and Milk’s Sean Penn. But in supporting, the top contenders so far are The Dark Knight’s Heath Ledger and…not much else. So if the supporting campaign sticks, not only is Hoffman guaranteed a nomination, but he might also beat Ledger again (as he did in 2006) and win his second Oscar.