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FYC: Nicholas Hoult in "The Favourite"

by Abe Fried-Tanzer

The Favourite is making a big splash this awards season – there’s no question of that. Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz are looking good for Oscar nominations, even if the classification of the latter two in the supporting race continues to infuriate Nathaniel every time a new organization announces. Its screenplay is a shoo-in, director Yorgos Lanthimos has a good shot, and the film will also be cited in a few technical categories.

There’s one great element of the film – aside from its makeup and hairstyling, which failed to make the finals -- that likely won’t be on the Oscar list. Though the film is dominated by women, one male actor makes quite an impression...

If you've seen the movie, you've likely loved Nicholas Hoult’s sly charismatic performance, but that probably won’t be enough to propel him to a nomination.

Hoult portrays Robert Harley, the 1st Earl of Oxford, a conniving politician whose schemes do indeed rival those of Weisz’s Lady Sarah and Stone’s ambitious Abigail. Robert is motivated most by his own interests, and is visibly ruffled when Colman’s Queen Anne dismisses his policy suggestions. Harley embraces the costuming of the era, dressing his finest whenever he comes to the palace.

Hoult shines most in scenes opposite Emma Stone, using the power that Robert has to force Abigail to partner with him as a spy before she realizes that she’s capable of just as much duplicity as he is. He’s easily the most visible male in the cast, with the ubiquitous Joe Alwyn as Samuel Masham, Abigail’s suitor, running second.

Hoult, who is now 29, has been a cinematic presence for over 20 years, earning his first credit at the age of seven for Intimate Relations  (1996) starring Julie Walters and Rupert Graves. After that he made a splash as a child star with his endearing turn as the titular character in About a Boy (2002), in which he famously sang "Killing Me Softly". After starring on the British show Skins in 2007, Hoult made the leap to major movies right along with his growth spurt.

Hoult has racked up lots of credits, since. Among Hoult’s most prominent roles are the admiring student in A Single Man, his obsessive suicidal soldier "Nux" in Mad Max: Fury Road, Henry “The Beast” McCoy in the newest X-Men movies, and J.D. Salinger in Rebel in the Rye. His turn as a mysterious suitor with a secret in Young Ones and his unexpectedly light and entertaining star turn as the undead protagonist in Warm Bodies are my two personal favorite roles, prior to his very winning comic portrayal of Harley.

Early conversation suggested that Hoult might have been a contender, though the traction he needed would have looked something like the path to nominations for the likes of Tom Hardy in The Revenant. With a Best Supporting Actor lineup that seems pretty set, could Hoult prove an unexpected and welcome alternative to someone like Timothée Chalamet, whose film has no support outside of his performance? There’s always a chance, even if it’s nowhere near as strong as it would be if Harley himself knew the right Academy members to bribe and blackmail.


More from Abe, a new contributor
Nathaniel's review of The Favourite
Other FYCs


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Reader Comments (26)

He is SOOOOOO good in this. It is truly baffling by his lack of support.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBen

I haven't warmed to him the way others have before now, but he was outstanding in this. Would make my top 5 for sure.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Should have been nominated for About a Boy.

Unless you think he should be lead...which is possible. Great great movie. And he is special in it.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

he is absolutely overdue for an Oscar nomination

was sensationally good in Mad Max!!!

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

There's usually a coatail nom maybe it's him or Cardellini.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I wish this would happen. He’s wonderful in it. Definitely too five of the year for me (re: supporting actors). Of course I thought this about him in Fury Road too.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

Yes! The ladies are all amazing, but for me he is secret MVP - the one great truly SUPPORTING role. It's nice to see him pass the pretty-boy mantle to someone else because Harley is so much more an interesting character than Joe Alwyn's.

Shallow side note: even though it's been many years now, it still boggles my mind how the kid from "About a Boy" could grow up to be such a hottie.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLynn Lee

I really liked his performance as well. I thought he would've snuck in at the BAFTA's. Too bad.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRod

What? He's cute but he's barely in the movie. He needs a role where he is more than just decoration.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJono

@Jono: So maybe like a lead role put in supporting as category fraud might do the trick?

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

Love love love him in the film. He's in my personal top 5. No better role for the patriarchy then to run around in a panic, in full make up and heels, underestimating his female counterparts at every turn.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

"A man must look pretty."

Sitting pretty and looking that way too. Yes, he's perfection in this film.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

"He's cute but he's barely in the movie."

So, this is the problem with one film putting TWO semi-lead performances in supporting campaigns: even though it is absolutely the perfect supporting performance length-wise and definitely deserves to be nominated ahead of basically every category frontrunner, because it has substantially less screen time than Stone and Weisz, it feels to some people like he's underused if they don't really thiiiiiiink about what they're saying.

Hoult should be a 2-time nominee after this year (Mad Max) but oh well, he's hot, so isn't he the real winner in life?

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

Hoult was never better than in The Favourite - ok, well next to About a Boy. I hope he keeps resisting vacuous parts like the one he had in A Single Man in favor of this kind of delicious character role.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

He's not "barely in the movie" and he's definitely not used as set dressing. His is unarguably the largest male role in the film, and has numerous (and very memorable!) scenes.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

I've never enjoyed him as much as I did in The Favourite--I agree, he should be nominated!

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

I don't get this at all, quite frankly.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Surprised he's not in the conversation.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Women centered films are rarely recognized for the work of male performers.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Totally agree. He was charismatic in all of his scenes and delivered his lines hilariously. Out of his costumes in The Favorite, he’s totally beautiful

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRich

I'm v surprise tt he was snubbed by both Bifa n Bafta, considering they really luv The Fav n he's a homegrown celeb! I'd thot he wld at least get a coattail nom together w The Fav ladies.

I guess the three ladies r sucking up all the oxygen in the room! 😂

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

This is the problem with the studio system and agents. Or you can buy a Golden Globe like Rami. It's very hard to break out. I actually do think he was good but it was not a vivid role. That whole movie is obsessed with the three women and rabbits.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford

I thought I was the only one who loved him in this, he matches the bitchy energy of the three leads perfectly

January 12, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterkris01

He is great in this. This is the whole problem with category fraud : true supporting performances are being overlooked for not having enough screentime! It's absurd.

January 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

He's great in this. He's #6 on my own list (#5 is Daniel Kaluuya in Widows), but he would've easily made my own top 5 with one more good scene in the third act. I think it's the fact that he fades from the film a bit towards the end that cost him any awards traction. Because he's delightful in this and better than at least three major contenders I can think of.

January 12, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermountanto

I wish Hoult and Alwyn had played lovers

January 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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