NEW YORK -- Four Oscar veterans and one newcomer are competing for this year's Best Actor award, but the race is tighter than most.
Christian Bale gets his fourth Academy Award nomination, as do Bradley Cooper and Willem Dafoe. It's nod number three for Viggo Mortensen, and the first for Rami Malek.
"Total commitment" are the words that come to mind when considering Bale's journey to the nation's second-highest office, as he is almost unrecognizable as former Vice President Dick Cheney in Vice.
"It was a vast undertaking in terms of finding the look, but mostly focusing on what's the essence of the man," he said.
Cooper learned how to play the guitar for his role in A Star is Born, a movie he also directed.
"The fact that people were responding the way they did, and it was sort of like a slow roll, I guess, it would feel, and then more and more," he said. "And it just felt like, wow, people are really connecting with something that we were trying to tell."
Dafoe has never won an Oscar, but he has another shot for Eternity's Gate as artist Vincent Van Gogh.
"I know always with a physical approach that I require, I was going to paint," he said. "And that was the key, because through the painting, I really had a shift of how I see things. And that was essential to inhabiting the character."
Reviews were mixed for Bohemian Rhapsody, but almost everyone agrees Malek deserves his nomination for playing the late rock icon and Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.
"I tried to attack it from the way I would any other role, whereas if you remove what he could do on stage, there was a man, a very complicated man, at the center who was trying to discover his identity," he said. "And that was a way in. That was something I knew how to tackle."
Mortensen, playing Tony Vallelonga, drives Mahershala Ali through the deep south half a century ago, and an unlikely friendship develops in Green Book.
"I was born in New York City, and I got to come back to the city I was born in to do my homework and my preparation for the character, and that was great," he said. "I touched base with a lot of people. I got to know the Vallelonga family, a lot of their friends, people I maybe never would've met, you know? And I got to go down someone else's memory lane, but going down the Vallelonga memory lane and that of the whole family, that was a trip. I loved it."
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4 Oscar veterans, 1 newcomer vie for Best Actor at this year's Academy Awards
BACKSTAGE WITH SANDY KENYON