For weeks now I’ve been comparing Clint Eastwood’s upcoming drama Hereafter to 2006’s Babel, since they both include three distinct storylines that end up intersecting by the end of the film. (And because I loved both movies.) Now I’ve just received word from Warner Bros.’ awards consultant that Matt Damon will be campaigned in the lead actor category despite appearing in less than half of the film. By contrast, the entire cast of Babel was touted in the supporting categories. (Brad Pitt, Adriana Barraza, and Rinko Kikuchi earned Golden Globe nominations, while Barraza and Kikuchi repeated at the Oscars.)
This news surprises me, I have to admit. Maybe because I’m so into the Hereafter/Babel comparison, I’m feeling like the Academy strategy should be the same for both. But if you look at Hereafter’s billboards, it’s clear the studio is selling the film as a Matt Damon vehicle, so this decision is consistent with the marketing plan. And by placing him in lead for Hereafter, Warner Bros. conveniently avoids vote-splitting with Damon’s supporting turn in the Coen brothers’ True Grit. (Did you see the trailer? It looks great.)
The bad news? He’ll have less of a shot at a nomination in lead, which is a shame, since he delivers a solid, emotional performance as a construction worker struggling to deal with his unwanted psychic abilities. But teaming with Eastwood in last year’s Invictus scored him a nod (albeit for supporting actor), so they’re clearly a formidable pair.