Anthony Hopkins

Where does Anthony Hopkins’s Oscar-winning performance in ‘The Father’ rank in terms of screen time?

Three decades ago, Anthony Hopkins won his first Oscar for appearing in 24 minutes and 52 seconds of “The Silence of the Lambs.” Despite falling nine minutes short of the Best Supporting Actor winner average, his victory came in the Best Actor category, sparking a debate regarding his designation that continues to this day. Since then, all Best Actor winners have had screen time totals of at least 31 minutes, with 79% of them having passed the one hour mark. This includes Hopkins, who bagged his second lead trophy just last year for his one hour, five minutes, and 14 seconds of work in “The Father.”

Hopkins’s 2021 victory caused a shift in the academy’s recent trend of awarding significantly longer lead male performances. He clocked in below the category’s all-time nominee average of one hour, 10 minutes, and 40 seconds, which is something a Best Actor winner had not done since 2012 (Jean Dujardin, “The Artist,” 58 minutes and 15 seconds). Since his Best Supporting Actress-nominated costar, Olivia Colman, was the subject of category placement debate, he also broke the indisputable sole lead trend that seemed to have helped predecessors like Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker,” 2020) and Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea,” 2017) win over their respective challengers, Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”) and Denzel Washington (“Fences”).

Even Hopkins’s competitors broke from tradition. While Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”) and Gary Oldman (“Mank”) each passed the 90-minute mark, Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) and Steven Yeun (“Minari”) both clocked in at under 50 minutes. The last lead male lineup to include multiple performances as short was the 2004 one, which featured winner Sean Penn (“Mystic River,” 47 minutes and 50 seconds) and nominee Johnny Depp (“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” 49 minutes and 32 seconds). They were preceded in 1992 by Hopkins on his first win and Robert De Niro (“Cape Fear,” 48 minutes and 22 seconds).

While Hopkins’s win appears to indicate a change in the academy’s taste regarding the length of Best Actor-winning roles, it is worth noting that “The Father” is only 97 minutes long, which means that his performance takes up 67% of it and, in that respect, is relatively large. Additionally, although his screen time is below average in length, he still managed to beat two actors with much less, including Boseman, who many predicted would pull off a posthumous victory. Boseman’s performance would have been the 13th shortest to ever win the award, and that subconscious notion may have been a major deciding factor for voters.

With an average screen time of 83 minutes and 57 seconds and 67%, the last 10 Best Actor winners clearly illustrate the academy’s preference for larger lead male roles. With there having been only seven nominees who fell under the one-hour mark in that time, Dujardin may be the last such winner for quite a while longer.

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