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Oscar Watch: Supporting Actor Race; 'The Descendants' Robert Forster Talks Film Acting, Career Slumps, Academy Membership

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 9, 2012 at 2:38PM

Anything can happen in the supporting actor race. Every year some surprise nominee turns up who has not been mentioned in leadup critics and guild awards. Often it's someone attached to a popular movie like Alexander Payne's "The Descendants," which could have coattails as other contenders lose momentum. (Notably, "The Descendants" is the only film with perfect guild showings to date, nommed by SAG, PGA, DGA, WGA and ADG.) That could help veteran Robert Forster, for example, who returned to working actor status with Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" and has been busy ever since.
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Robert Forster in "The Descendants"
Robert Forster in "The Descendants"

Anything can happen in the supporting actor race. Every year some surprise nominee turns up who has not been mentioned in leadup critics and guild awards. Often it's someone attached to a popular movie like Alexander Payne's "The Descendants," which could have coattails as other contenders lose momentum. (Notably, "The Descendants" is the only film with perfect guild showings to date, nommed by SAG, PGA, DGA, WGA and ADG.) That could help veteran Robert Forster, for example, who returned to working actor status with Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" and has been busy ever since.

In "The Descendants" Forster plays the curmudgeon father of George Clooney's wife, who lies in a coma through most of the film. A tough military man with a temper, he harbors deep tenderness for both his dementia-ridden wife and dying child. Forster talks about the movie and his career peaks and valleys, including his intermittent membership in the Academy, below. He also gives as precise an account of what a working actor does in a film as I have ever heard.

Expected to land an Oscar nomination are front runners Christopher Plummer ("Beginners"), Kenneth Branagh ("My Week with Marilyn"), Jonah Hill ("Moneyball"), Albert Brooks ("Drive") and Nick Nolte ("Warrior"). But not entirely out of the hunt are Forster, SAG nominee Armie Hammer ("J. Edgar"), two-time Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey ("Margin Call") and one-time nominee Max Von Sydow ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close").

This article is related to: Interviews , Awards, Headliners, Directors, George Clooney


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.