Last week we reported that Warner Bros. had finally announced a release date for Judas and the Black Messiah, one of the very few remaining movies that could cause some major shifts in this year’s awards race, slotted for a February 12th, 2021 release in theaters and on HBO Max. At the time, we stated that Warner’s hadn’t confirmed where the film’s two main actors, Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya, would be campaigning for awards attention, but that the speculation was that Stanfield would be going lead and Kaluuya supporting.
Well, those two placements have now officially been confirmed by Warner Bros.’ campaign. This is good news for Kaluuya; maybe less so for Stanfield.
The film, directed by Shaka King, tells the story of criminal William O’Neal (Stanfield) who in the late 1960s becomes an informant for the FBI to take down Fred Hampton (Kaluuya), chairman of the Black Panther Party. King co-wrote the screenplay with Will Berson from a story by King, Berson, and brothers Keith Lucas and Kenny Lucas. King, Charles D. King, and Ryan Coogler are producers.
This is the second film now in the awards race which sees Hampton as an important character, having previously shown up in Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, played there in a more minor (but significant) role by Kelvin Harrison Jr.
All eyes will now be on Kaluuya, as he looks to get his second nomination, having previously been nominated in leading actor for his role in Jordan Peele’s Get Out three years ago. Kaluuya is stepping into a wide open supporting actor field that is not only lacking a frontrunner, but arguably doesn’t even have any nominees that feel secured as of yet. Leslie Odom Jr. has the top slot over on Gold Derby at the moment, for his work as Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami. It could be a category packed with historical figures, as Kaluuya’s Hampton could join Odom, along with any number of contenders from The Trial of the Chicago 7. Then again, Paul Raci is surging big time right now as he keeps popping up on critics lists for his work in Sound of Metal. There’s also the very real possibility of the late Chadwick Boseman showing up here for Da 5 Bloods, earning himself a posthumous double nomination. This is shaping up to be one of the more interesting races of the year.
Stanfield, meanwhile, has his work cut out for him. The road for the esteemed actor to get his first nomination is going to be a tough one, as leading actor is arguably the most competitive category of the year, with six or seven very strong contenders looking to secure one of those coveted five slots. Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods), Gary Oldman (Mank), and Steven Yeun (Minari), all look strong on paper and have been earning plenty of critics nods, while a big surge for One Night in Miami at the Oscars could potentially see Kingsley Ben-Adir push his way in. Stanfield is going to have to hope for Judas and the Black Messiah to be a late breaking game changer in order to worm his way into that packed field.
Judas and the Black Messiah releases in theaters and on HBO Max on February 12th, 2021. The Oscar nominations will be announced on March 15th.