‘Twas the night before Oscar voting closes… and Best Actor contenders Riz Ahmed and Sir Anthony Hopkins both flexed their last-minute campaign hustle on two separate late night talk shows. Sir Anthony Hopkins popped by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert alongside his The Father director, Florian Zeller, while a charming Riz visited Jimmy Kimmel Live virtually. This is prime awards season real estate, and gives these nominees a chance to leave the freshest impression for a last minute Academy voter, as Oscar ballots are due today at 5 p.m. PT.
Of course, we all understand that Chadwick Boseman’s final performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is equal parts poetic, searing, bittersweet, and very worthy of recognition, but I love to see this down-to-the-wire “schlep.” As Lainey wrote last week after the BAFTAs, Sir Anthony Hopkins’ surprise win is also top of mind for many voters, seeing as how it is his most high-profile victory yet, from one of the largest unofficial Academy branches. And Riz? He’s an Emmy winner up for his first Oscar, who has also won several critics prizes for Sound of Metal, winning over the late Chadwick at the Gotham Awards back in January. While Chadwick’s performance is appreciated and incredibly memorable, Riz and Hopkins are also putting in their bids for the ultimate praise from their peers, taking two different approaches to standing out. Plus, as beloved as Chadwick’s work is, which is regularly commended by his co-stars, including Viola Davis, Colman Domingo and Taylour Paige, there is no sure thing when it comes to Oscar night.
In his most lighthearted Sound of Metal talk show interview to date, Riz could barely contain his laughs when he talked about his admittedly cheesy proposal to his now-wife over a game of Scrabble, how he had a bachelor party over Zoom, and was tricked into signing dirty things during his months-long learning of ASL for his role. And yes, there’s a back-and-forth over having a backyard COVID wedding, which admittedly comes with several guest list perks. (Wedding talk starts around 8:50 / proposal talk around 10:30) This personality showcase is playful and appreciative; Riz appears thankful for the nomination, with a positive demeanour and laid-back smile. This late night appearance shows off his promise as a performer, and as a star, as well as his versatility. Who wouldn’t want to work with somebody this easygoing, and committed?
Meanwhile, Colbert drops his highest praise yet. Or maybe ever? Sure, Jimmy Kimmel called Riz’s work “great,” but Colbert refers to Hopkins as the GOAT.
At 5:10, Colbert waxes poetic, before calling Sir Anthony a “master,” and says:
"I think that this is the greatest performance of your career, and it might be the greatest performance I've ever seen an actor commit to film. That was my immediate reaction after I saw the film… It’s absolutely heartbreaking, but so beautifully rendered… And it is a strangely entertaining film at the same time of being a heartbreaking one. You want to know how the story is going to play out, and you also want to know what is real about his perception of the world [in regards to Anthony’s character’s dementia]."
Hopkins’ interview, in contrast to Riz, is one of restraint, control and precision. Not that Riz was all over the place by any means, but Hopkins talked about his love of the process, and these new challenges, and learning his lines in a way that shows his fire for the craft, or how this part “enriches” his love of acting. Hopkins has his Oscar for Silence of the Lambs, from nearly 30 years ago, but his frank, yet “haunting” talk about mortality, age, wisdom, and wonder left me just as enthralled as Riz’s off-the-cuff banter. Colbert’s awe and appreciation for Hopkins has a warmth to it, while demystifying a master’s process. How many more roles or opportunities is Hopkins going to have to refine his skills as a “GOAT”? At the same time, personal life aside, there are seemingly limitless opportunities in store for Riz. And that’s what makes him so compelling to watch as a performer: that potential.
Ultimately, these two last-minute talk show stops provide great choices for an Academy voter: who is most worthy of your appreciation? There is no right answer – but both Riz and Hopkins played to their strengths as best as they could to help endear themselves to the Academy, beyond the impact of their work itself.