Bill Murray has officially entered the race for the coveted ‘Best Actor’ Oscar after his performance as Franklin D. Roosevelt in ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’ garnered high praise from critics following its screening at the Toronto Film Festival this week. The movie has been quietly tipped as a potential awards winner for months, though it’s now evident that its success relies heavily upon Murray’s standout turn.
Known more nowadays for his oddball collaborations with indie auteur Wes Anderson, Murray admits even he was caught off guard when first approached to play FDR, telling the Los Angeles Times in Toronto, “I thought 'Oh God, I'm being asked to play Roosevelt?' ... How do you take this monster on?” His decision to play the 32nd U.S president – the man who led America through time of worldwide economic depression and total war – appears to have been a shrewd movie for the 61-year-old. Todd MCCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter wrote of Murray’s performance, “It takes a few minutes to get used to, but once he settles into the role of the 32nd president, the idiosyncratic comic actor does a wonderfully jaunty job of it”, while Catherine Shoard of The Guardian wrote, “Linney is terrific, and Murray, too, but he doesn't shy in showing that, in some respects, Roosevelt was as much the product of an earlier age as his buttoned-up house guests.” Talk has now inevitably moved towards the Oscars, though Murray himself doesn’t see ‘Hudson’ as a contender – certainly not in the same way that ‘The Kings Speech’ was in 2010 – he said, “There's an expression in Yiddish, schmuck bait…To me, an Oscar-type role, when I see those kinds of roles, I consider them schmuck bait. They're often sentimental, schmaltz. This one wasn't sentimental at all, because it's a sort of behind-the-curtain look.”
Murray certainly has competition for the major prizes in 2013, and it could turn out being the battle of the Presidents, with Daniel Day-Lewis’ turn as Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s biopic seemingly having Oscar written all over it. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘The Master’ could easily see the acclaimed actor adding to his trophy cabinet, while the likes of John Hawkes and Hugh Jackman may yet emerge as contenders for ‘The Surrogate’ and ‘Les Miserables’ respectively.