Everybody knows that actors rarely win Academy Awards for their greatest performances, but here’s another Oscar principle: being considered overdue for the statuette also figures into the voting? Yeah, I know: Martin Scorcese was overdue for decades before finally winning Best Director last February for “The Departed”; he’d gone from “overdue” to “overdone.”
With the exception of Al Pacino, who waited almost as long as Scorcese, it generally takes only a half-decade or so for an overdue actor to pick up the prize — the eventual winners, I mean, not the great actors (Burton, O’Toole, etc.) who never won more than an honorary. (The women are different; the Best Actress honor over the past decade and a half has usually gone to the belle of the ball: Halle Berry, Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, etc.)
If the overdue principle has any currency the next time around then I wouldn’t bet against Johnny Depp for his performance in the Christmas release “Sweeney Todd,” directed by Depp’s partner in creative crime, Tim Burton. (Above is a still from the movie, in which Depp costars with Helena Bonham-Carter as Mrs. Lovett.)
Depp spent years honing his indie cred with memorable performances in movies like “Edward Scissorhands.” The “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise turned him into bona fide box office. He’s so ripe for Oscar you can practically script the acceptance speech. But can he win for a musical? Isn’t that a category, as we saw this year for Jennifer Hudson and “Dreamgirls,” reserved for supporting players rather than big bad movie stars?
A look at Oscar history would seem to suggest so. The last time Best Actor was collected by someone in a movie musical was 1964, when Rex Harrison won for “My Fair Lady.” Could Depp break the spell this year, playing the Demon Barber of Fleet Street?
According to a couple of people I’ve talked to who’ve seen a lot of the footage from the “Sweeney Todd” movie, the answer is: Yes. I’m a little more skeptical, I guess.