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Lead actor race is practically a faculty

Portrait illustration of Jeffrey Wright and Paul Giamatti for the Envelope Magazine.
Jeffrey Wright and Paul Giamatti play similarly erudite curmudgeonly teachers in "American Fiction" and "The Holdovers," respectively. But then so do others in the lead actor race. (Illustration by Natalia Agatte / For The Times. )

This year’s lead actor Oscar contenders have education in common. They all are either teachers or on the fringes of the education system. — Carla Meyer

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Nominees Paul Giamatti and Jeffrey Wright play similarly erudite curmudgeons employed as educators in “The Holdovers” and “American Fiction," respectively. But the education theme …

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... runs throughout their category: J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) taught at UC Berkeley before fathering the atomic bomb; conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) lectured often; and civil rights activist Bayard Rustin (Colman Domingo) attended a teachers’ college. So there’s a …

40-100%

... chance (depending on how loosely one defines “teacher”) an actor who played an educator will be named lead actor for the second year in a row, after Brendan Fraser, whose character in “The Whale” taught college English.

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The total number of lead actor Oscar recipients who played teachers gets squishy after obvious winners like Robert Donat (“Goodbye, Mr. Chips”) and Rex Harrison (“My Fair Lady”). Teaching often is one of the characters' many jobs, or not emphasized in the film. Plus …

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... of the most well-known performances — Edward James Olmos’ in “Stand and Deliver” and Robin Williams’ in “Dead Poets Society” — were nominated but did not win. And Sidney Poitier was not even nominated for “To Sir, With Love.”

1998

Robin Williams eventually won in supporting for playing an educator in “Good Will Hunting.” His therapist character also taught community college psychology.

2007

Before playing a character whose job is “beach,” current supporting actor nominee Ryan Gosling received a lead actor nomination for playing a devoted but self-destructive middle school teacher in “Half Nelson.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.