The Difference Between “Best Supporting Actor” And “Best Actor”

We always hear during the award shows that prizes are awarded separately to the best actor and the best supporting actor. But we never really thought about how they made the distinction in the first place. What makes an actor suitable for the best actor award while the other for the best-supporting actor award? What are the rules? How are the distinctions made?

Rules for the roles

There are no standard guidelines for knowing how much airtime an actor gets to determine which role he is more eligible for. The final verdict usually falls in the hands of the studio and what role they think the actor is more competitive. They sometimes do not factor the airtime at all. It is the studio that campaigns for the actor for the specific role once they cast the final decision.  

As mentioned, there are no rules and distinctions between the lead and the supporting. The rule only states that a performance by an actor is eligible for nomination for either the lead or the supporting role. If a majority of the film is dubbed or narrated by another actor, then the performance should not be counted.

However, this is different for musical films where a singer or a different actor dubs the actor. In these cases, the actor is not removed from the acting nomination list. The actor is still part of the roster as he has done his part of “acting.” in the film. This practice is not uncommon in musicals.

In the end, the members of the award-giving body will ultimately decide which category the actor will fall in. They will vote on it, and the results will determine the actor’s category. There will be times when a film will not have a lead actor instead of two supporting actors. It really depends on the results that the voting committee will present.

Controversies and conflicts

A prestigious awards ceremony is not without its dilemmas. There had been controversies about the votation process in recent years. An example is the movie Carol where actress Rooney Mara was nominated for Best Supporting Actress even if she had more screen-time than Cate Blanchett, who was nominated for Best Actress. The decision of the studio was heavily criticized, and it was also found that they did not want the two actresses to compete in the same category. They also based their decision on the actresses’ prominence and fame in the film industry, which should not be the case if the basis is the performance in the film.