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OSCAR COUNTDOWN 1994 Two Former Winners, Three Others in Race for Best Actor Oscar

March 7, 1994

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ For the category of best actor this year, Academy Award voters face the challenge of choosing from among five powerful performances, three of which were based on real people.

The diverse competition features true-life portrayals of a heroic German capitalist, a wrongly convicted Irishman and a hard-driving rock ‘n’ roller. Fictional roles include an AIDS victim and a dutiful English butler.

Two of the nominees are past Oscar winners: Daniel Day-Lewis for his performance as the afflicted Christy Brown in ″My Left Foot,″ and Anthony Hopkins for the demoniacal Hannibal Lecter in ″The Silence of the Lambs.″

Tom Hanks was nominated for best actor in 1988 as the kid-turned-adult in ″Big.″ Laurence Fishburne and Liam Neeson are first-time nominees.

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Daniel Day-Lewis, ″In the Name of the Father,″ has created a string of remarkable performances in his brief film career: as a homosexual in ″My Beautiful Laundrette,″ a fop in ″A Room With a View,″ a randy Czech doctor in ″The Unbearable Lightness of Being,″ a frontiersman in ″The Last of the Mohicans,″ a 19th-century socialite in ″The Age of Innocence.″

Day-Lewis scored again as the Belfast drifter who served 15 years in prison for an IRA bombing of which he was innocent. The actor spent some time with his real-life counterpart, Jerry Conlon.

″I was most immediately struck by his sense of humor,″ said Day-Lewis in a Los Angeles Times interview. ″He’s very bright and witty, and by the time he finished, I was astonished to find myself howling with laughter at his descriptions of life in some of the toughest of Her Majesty’s prisons. The story is so relentlessly grim that I think humor was terribly important.″

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Laurence Fishburne, ″What’s Love Got to Do With It,″ has acted in moives since he was 12, winning a featured role in ″Apocalypse Now″ at 14. He distinguished himself in plays and films, then won stardom as the concerned father in ″Boyz N the Hood.″ His Academy nomination came with his role as Ike Turner, the explosive husband and musical partner of Tina Turner.

Fishburne analyzed Ike’s character:

″I think like most human beings, he was very complex. He was so complicated that he could be very simple. He was very driven, very ambitious. He wanted a lot of material things - women, cars, money, fine clothes. He liked fame. Emotionally, there were other things he wanted that he wasn’t able to get.

″I think he used those other things outside himself - the cars, the clothes, his many affairs with women, the drugs - to fill himself up. But it wasn’t enough.″

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Tom Hanks, ″Philadelphia,″ had a bountiful year between the powerful AIDS drama and the hit comedy-romance, ″Sleepless in Seattle.″ Possibly because Academy voters display more respect for drama than comedy, he was nominated for his role as the AIDS patient challenging his firing from a law firm in ″Philadelphia.″

Hanks had to drop 35 pounds to portray attorney Andrew Beckett in the last stages of his illness.

″With ‘Philadelphia,’ I saw in my head some sort of image of just about every aspect of the character, to be supplemented, of course, by all the experts we brought in,″ he told Interview magazine. ″We’re all pretending (as actors), we all put on other people’s clothes and pretend to be other people. After you get past that, you’ve got to figure out how to pretend so you’re not faking that pretending. Does that make sense?″

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Anthony Hopkins, ″The Remains of the Day,″ recently was described as the ″best actor of his generation″ by Richard Attenborough. Indeed, the Welsh-born actor has enjoyed an amazing streak of acclaimed portrayals, from ″The Silence of the Lambs″ to ″Shadowlands.″

In ″The Remains of the Day,″ Hopkins faced the challenge of portraying a character whose emotions are held firmly in check. Stevens the butler remains unswervingly loyal to his master, an English aristocrat who consorts with Nazis. Stevens will not even allow himself to return the affection of the housekeeper, played by Emma Thompson.

″I can understand his denial,″ Hopkins said. ″He was dedicated to his job. He was an ultra-professional. I played many men like this, such as Captain Bligh in ‘The Bounty.’ They are good men and dedicated, but they miss a lot. They are not flexible.

″Stevens misses out on love, a bit of humor and companionship in his life. The sad thing is he realizes at the end of the story that he has dedicated all his life to a man who is just naive and a bit of a lost cause.″

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Liam Neeson, ″Schindler’s List,″ was born in county Antrim, Northern Ireland, and acted in Belfast and London before making his film debut in 1981 in ″Excalibur.″ He came to Hollywood in 1986 and distinguished himself in a series of feature roles.

After seeing the actor on Broadway in ″Anna Christie,″ Steven Spielberg chose him for the role of Oskar Schindler, the German war profiteer who saved the lives of his Jewish workers.

No ″method actor,″ Neeson said that he refrained from steeping himself in the wartime period.

″As an actor I kind of wanted to distance myself a bit because Schindler has to be upbeat and sassy,″ he remarked. ″I had a great angle on him by watching (‘All About Eve’ co-star) George Sanders. I watched all those black- and-white films to get a feeling for the period.

″I knew I was going to be in endless tuxedos, and Sanders was born in those things. He was a debonair performer and actually bore a resemblance to Schindler. Schindler was very flattered when people would come up to him and say he looked like George Sanders.″

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