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Behind the scenes with the best supporting actor Oscar nominees ahead of the 2024 Academy Awards ceremony

Watch scenes from the performances nominated in the category of best supporting actor at the 96th annual Academy Awards, as well as interviews with the Oscar nominees below. The 2024 Oscars will be presented on Sunday, March 10.

Oscar nominees for best supporting actor, from left: Sterling K. Brown, “American Fiction”; Robert De Niro, “Killers of the Flower Moon”; Robert Downey Jr., “Oppenheimer”; Ryan Gosling, “Barbie”; and Mark Ruffalo, “Poor Things.” 

Orion Pictures; Apple Original Films; Universal Pictures; Warner Brothers; Searchlight Pictures;

Sterling K. Brown, “American Fiction”

Sterling K. Brown, best known from the long-running series “This Is Us,” earned his first Academy Award nomination for “American Fiction,” playing Cliff, a plastic surgeon who has just come out of the closet, and who maintains complicated relationships with brother Monk (played by Jeffrey Wright) and sister Lisa (Tracee Ellis Ross). 

Based on the novel “Erasure” by Percival Everett, writer-director Cord Jefferson’s satire delves into the struggles that Monk has both professionally and with his family. Cliff in particular tests this bond that the brothers share, with their strained communications covered over by the teasing that is a sibling’s wont.  

In this scene, Cliff questions Monk’s girlfriend, Coraline (Erika Alexander), about her attraction to his brother:

“American Fiction” clip: Sterling K. Brown, Erika Alexander and Jeffrey Wright by
CBS Sunday Morning on

Brown, who has won three Emmy Awards (for “American Crime Story,” “This Is Us,” and “Lincoln: Divided We Stand”), and four Screen Actors Guild Awards, told the Hollywood Reporter that the screenplay for “American Fiction” was one of the best he’d ever read. It was also a welcome change of pace after six years of “This Is Us.” “It was very important for me to find roles that did not feel Randall Pearson-esque,” he said. “Cliff was a lovely sort of comedic foil. He’s also a person who needs to be dealt with rather than the person who’s dealing with everything. It’s kind of nice to be the dude that has to be dealt with.”

When analyzing the character of Cliff, Brown described to Deadline the attitudes he faced when, as a student at Stanford pursuing a business degree, he decided to become an actor instead — a decision that most of his family did not understand. “It’s not a perfect comparison, but it’s the best one that I have to my own personal life experience regarding Cliff being gay, and not even a decision he was able to articulate because I think he knew not to articulate it because he probably had enough indicators around him that it wouldn’t be the thing to be,” he said. “I think everybody, to a certain extent, has this feeling of being on the outside, that everybody else understands what it’s like to be a part of the club, and then you feel like you’re on the outside of the club. I think I’ve had that feeling when choosing to be an actor. I think Cliff has that in being gay and finding a way of finding your tribe and acceptance and feeling comfortable with yourself.

“So, it really doesn’t matter if people agree with your decision or agree with your lifestyle, because your comfort allows you to be whatever you need to be, and to move through the world regardless,” he said.

“American Fiction” is available on VOD.       

More on “American Fiction”:

Robert De Niro, “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Robert De Niro has collaborated with director Martin Scorsese on 10 films exploring the costs of physical and emotional violence, from “Mean Streets” — their breakthrough picture — to “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the true story of a wave of murders of Osage Indians in the early 20th century who held valuable oil rights on their Oklahoma land.

De Niro plays William Hale, a rancher and businessman known as “King of the Osage Hills,” seemingly a friend of the Native Americans — a benevolent member of the community who aids the Osage and even speaks their language. But when oil is discovered on Osage property, Hale schemes a series of murders that allow White men who marry Osage women to inherit their fortunes.

In this scene, Hale excoriates his nephew, Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio), for a botched murder that was supposed to be made to look like a suicide:

“Killers of the Flower Moon” clip: Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio by
CBS Sunday Morning on

In this scene, Hale is not exactly reassuring as he tries to persuade his nephew Ernest that he is safe from the law — or that Hale is merely looking after Ernest’s best interests by asking him to sign away rights to a potential fortune. [I mean, would you trust this guy?]

“Killers of the Flower Moon” clip: Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio by
CBS Sunday Morning on

At a press conference at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, De Niro admitted he didn’t understand the duality of his character: “I don’t understand a lot about him,” he said. “He has to be charming, he has to win people over … Why he betrays them in this way?

“I think part of it with him, I guess, is sincere. It’s just the other part where he’s betraying them, there’s a feeling of entitlement, I guess you could say. We became a lot more aware after George Floyd with systemic racism, and so that’s what it is. … It’s the banality of evil.”

Killers of the Flower Moon – Press conference – EV – Cannes 2023 by
Festival de Cannes on

Notably, this is the first time that DiCaprio, who starred with De Niro in 1993’s “This Boy’s Life,” has worked with De Niro and Scorsese on the same feature, though they’d appeared in a short film together, 2015’s “The Audition.”

“The two of them are so incredible together,” DiCaprio told “Sunday Morning.” “Their shorthand, the way they communicate, it’s almost through sign language. It’s nods and, ‘I know, I know.’ I mean, it’s incredible to watch!” [Scorsese quipped that, unlike the shorthand he shares with De Niro, what he has with DiCaprio is “longhand.”]

This film marks De Niro’s eighth acting Oscar nomination; he’s won twice, for “The Godfather Part II” and “Raging Bull.”

“Killers of the Flower Moon” is streaming on Apple TV+, and is available on VOD.     

More on “Killers of the Flower Moon”:

Robert Downey Jr., “Oppenheimer”

In “Oppenheimer,” Robert Downey Jr. engages in a bait-and-switch act in his performance as Lewis Strauss, board member at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, who brings J. Robert Oppenheimer on board after the famed physicist’s success at Los Alamos — and who later becomes Oppenheimer’s antagonist as head of the Atomic Energy Commission over Oppenheimer’s public stance against nuclear weapons.

In this scene, Strauss is pulled into an emergency meeting when it’s learned that radiation — sign of a nuclear test by the Soviet Union — has been detected over the North Pacific:

“Oppenheimer” clip: Robert Downey Jr. and Cillian Murphy by
CBS Sunday Morning on

Strauss, aghast at the Soviet Union’s nuclear progress, is bent on building more and bigger bombs than the Russians — and believes Oppenheimer, who was outspoken against nuclear proliferation, stands in his way. His campaign to discredit Oppenheimer includes suggestions that he was a spy. A closed-door hearing by an Atomic Energy Commission security panel would vote to remove Oppenheimer’s security clearance, making it impossible for him to continue his research.

In this scene, Strauss vents with a Senate aide (Alden Ehrenreich) about the testimony made against him during a Cabinet confirmation hearing over the attacks on Oppenheimer:

“Oppenheimer” clip: Robert Downey Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich by
CBS Sunday Morning on

The son of filmmaker Robert Downey Sr., Downey Jr. came to shoulder the massive Marvel Cinematic Universe in his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man, leader of the Avengers. But his resume had shown a wide range of characters in nearly 100 films, from “Chaplin,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” and “Zodiac,” to “Tropic Thunder,” “Sherlock Holmes” and “The Judge.” With “Oppenheimer,” he plays effectively off his personal charm to hide the unscrupulous tactics of Strauss and the anger when his plans blow up in his face.

Downey, who won the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe Awards for his performance, told W Magazine that he “jumped at the chance” to appear in Christopher Nolan’s film: “Everything about playing Lewis Strauss was … I don’t want to say difficult, but it was counterintuitive for me,” he said. “I know that we’re all mixtures of what our persona is and who we really are. Nolan was inviting me to turn the mirror onto an unexplored portion of myself. And the character, to me, is everybody who has ever felt slighted by somebody who was more important than them. It gave me a lot of time to reflect. I wondered if I’ve come off like that to people in the past. And I wondered, if I were them, if I wouldn’t seek to destroy me.”

A big challenge was when the character called for acting contained: “Being still, which does not come to me easily all the time,” he said. “And part of it is, I’m middle-aged. If, at this point, I can’t sit on my hands and just stand there and tell the truth, then I’ve been doing something wrong for a long time.”

Robert Downey Jr. Explored “Human Frailty” in ‘Oppenheimer’ | W Magazine by
W Magazine on

Discussing his role in the blockbuster film, Downey told The Associated Press, “One of the things about Nolan in particular that is now evident is big scale, big impact, thrilling cinema — but there’s also this exploration of the subtleties of all of us, including our frailties and our defects and all these things that are really difficult to describe. And painted this picture that’s historic and very personal and also shocking, in a cool way.”

“Oppenheimer” is streaming on Peacock and is available via VOD.      

More on the making of “Oppenheimer”:

Ryan Gosling, “Barbie”

Greta Gerwig told “60 Minutes” that she wrote the role of Ken specifically for Ryan Gosling, even though she’d never met him — even going so far as to write him into the screenplay she co-authored with Noah Baumbach: “It said, “Ken Ryan Gosling,” she noted.


Warner Brothers

And you’d be hard-pressed to name an actor better suited to the role (even though there are a lot of Kens in the film). Gosling has been effective both in dreamy romantic roles (“The Notebook,” “Lars and the Real Girl,” “Blue Valentine,” “Drive,” “La La Land”), and in films playing men torn by loss or isolation (“Blade Runner 2049,” “First Man”).

In “Barbie,” set in a pink phantasmagoria known as Barbie Land, Ken is the epitome of Barbie accessories — the handsome hunk whose purpose seems to be making Barbie look good, whether it’s on the beach or riding shotgun in the Barbie car.

In this scene, Ken, eager to impress Barbie (Margot Robbie), goes head-to-head with Ken (Simu Liu), threatening a “beach-off,” which sounds violent:

“Barbie” clip: Ryan Gosling, Simu Liu and Margot Robbie by
CBS Sunday Morning on

But Ken begins to question his role after escorting Barbie to the Real World (that is, Santa Monica, California), where Ken witnesses a land in which men are powerful, rich, and ride horses. In fact, men appear to run the show. So, when it’s time to head back to Barbie Land, he aims to turn it into a patriarchy, with men ruling the roost and doing the sort of stuff bros do.

In one of the musical highlights of the film, Ken (in mink) leads a high-powered dance featuring all the other Kens of Barbie Land, to the Oscar-nominated song “I’m Just Ken,” written by Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt — one of this year’s nominees for best original song:

“Barbie” clip: Ryan Gosling by
CBS Sunday Morning on

Gosling told Variety that he’d nearly passed on playing Ken, which earned him his third Oscar nomination. “It’s the hardest role I’ve ever had to play,” he said. “It was like a high-wire act — in tiny shorts and no shirt — with no net.”

“In some way, everything I’ve done led to [Ken],” Gosling continued. “And I can’t believe I’m saying that. There were moments when I would do it where I’d think, ‘I haven’t felt like I’ve worked this hard since “Blue Valentine.”‘ There were moments when I left ‘Blue Valentine’ just completely emotionally spent, laying on the floor of the car on the ride home just done — empty. And it was even harder to play Ken. And I thought, ‘How am I feeling that on this film?'”

Gosling worked out four hours a day and attended dance classes to garner those Ken washboard abs. He also restricted his diet to, basically, nothing. “It was just, like, coffee,” he said.

“Barbie” is currently streaming on Max, and is available via VOD.     

More on “Barbie”:

Mark Ruffalo, “Poor Things”

The lineup of best supporting actor nominees for the Oscars matches up with the Screen Actors Guild’s nominees, except for one: From “Poor Things,” instead of Willem Dafoe, the Academy chose Mark Ruffalo, who’d previously been nominated for three Oscars (for “The Kids Are All Right,” “Foxcatcher,” and “Spotlight”).

A steam punk-inspired “Frankenstein” tale, Yoros Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” stars Emma Stone as the product of a mad scientist’s experimentation in which he implants the brain of a fetus into the body of a suicide victim, Bella (played by Stone).

When we are introduced to Bella, she is a toddler/fully-grown woman with minimal vocabulary just learning how to use her physicality. That tickles the interest of a lothario, Duncan (played by Ruffalo), who takes upon himself the task of “teaching” Bella, primarily in the area of physicality.

In this scene, as Bella excites in the discovery of dance, he tries to match her, beat by beat:

POOR THINGS | “Dancing Scene” Clip | Searchlight Pictures by
SearchlightPictures on

Duncan can be characterized by his jealousy and possessiveness, which come to the fore as the cad takes Bella around the world, only to find that the young woman learning how to become an independent thinker is, in the process, excluding him from her life.

In this scene, Duncan finds that Bella is maturing more rapidly than his jealousy appreciates:

“Poor Things” clip: Mark Ruffalo and Emma Stone by
CBS Sunday Morning on

In this Associated Press interview, Ruffalo compared “Poor Things” to other films in his career, whether they were small, independent films or Marvel superhero extravaganzas: “I love making movies, and I love pushing myself. Certain things, like this, are so much more expressive, and because it’s humor, it has a different kind of energy. It’s easier for an audience to watch, maybe … But I feel I put on the same amount of care and passion into all of them. Maybe it doesn’t come across like that, but I feel like I try!”

Oscars 2024: Supporting actor nominee Mark Ruffalo AP interview by
Associated Press on

“People sort of start to see you in a certain way, and then you maybe start to see yourself a certain way, and that’s so boring. … I’m so happy that Yorgos and Emma saw me in this when I, maybe, didn’t even see myself in this.”

He told Deadline that the daring physicality of his performance as Duncan reminded him a lot of his early theater days, “where I was just very courageous and kind of dangerous. For some reason over the years, I’ve been keeping it very restrained, and all the parts I’ve been playing called for that. This is a part that no one would’ve expected me in.”

Ruffalo said he did not get notes from Lanthimos during filming about how out-there his performance should be, and if the director laughed, Ruffalo knew he was headed in the right direction. Otherwise, Lanthimos might offer, “That’s enough of that.”

By the end, Duncan is a broken soul, torn apart by the rejection of Bella. Ruffalo told Deadline, “I have women friends that I know that say, ‘I love Duncan. I was really pulling for him. I felt so bad for him,’ or guys were like, ‘Man, I didn’t know what to make of that dude. But at the end I was like, oh, God, poor guy. I felt a lot of sympathy for him.'”

“Poor Things” is streaming on Hulu, and is available via VOD.     

More on “Poor Things”:

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