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Best Supporting Actor – Jon Voight, “Ali”

Film: Ali

Previous wins for role: None

Previous Oscar wins/nominations:
Nominated for Best Actor, Runaway Train (1985)
Won for Best Actor, Coming Home (1978)
Nominated for Best Actor, Midnight Cowboy (1969)

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Character bio: As one of sport’s most influential journalists, Howard Cosell had a unique chemistry with the flamboyant Muhammad Ali. Their professional relationship was part mutual respect, part theatrics, and they practically invented the one-on-one sports interview that dominates sports journalism today. Cosell received a lot of flak for his support of Ali’s choices, especially after Cosell was the first to call the fighter by his Muslim name rather than his given name, Cassius Clay, on national television. However, Cosell stood by his principles and continued to treat Ali like the heavyweight champ he was.

Oscar odds: Voight actually met Ali before the Rumble in the Jungle, where Ali fought for the heavyweight championship against George Forman, and always watched Cosell’s and Ali’s relationship with interest. He thought their friendship played an important role in the fight against bigotry in the ’60s and ’70s and so tackling the role as Cosell was especially meaningful to Voight. Plus, Voight simply nails it. The actor has made some interesting choices in his career–some good, some verrrry bad (Anaconda anyone?)–but he still manages to surprise us. Will he win the Oscar this time around? In the wide-open race for Best Supporting Actor, he has as good a chance as the rest. —Kit Bowen

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