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Best Actress Winner, Nominees & Odds for the 2021 Oscars

Best Actress Winner, Nominees & Odds for the 2021 Oscars article feature image

Christopher Polk/Getty Images. Pictured: Andra Day

Update: Frances McDormand won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Nomadland.

Best Actress Nominees & Odds

NomineeOddsImplied Prob.
Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)+12544.4%
Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)+20033.3%
Frances McDormand (Nomadland)+40020%
Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday)+60014.3%
Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)+20004.8%
Odds as of April 24 and via DraftKings.

Best Actress Predictions

Frances McDormand +400

Jeremy Pond: This might be the most wide-open major category we’ve seen in a long time, with four of the five nominees priced at +600 or lower on the odds. Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) is the current favorite at +125, with former Academy Awards winner Viola Davis next at +200 for her performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

However, the underlay in this battle is Frances McDormand, who starred in massive Best Picture favorite Nomadland (-670). McDormand is a six-time nominee, winning two Best Actress awards for her work in Fargo (2016) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri in 2019. A win this year would make her a perfect three-for-three in the category.

McDormand’s performance in Nomadland was simply brilliant. She plays a woman named Fern, who travels the country following her husband’s death and becomes part of the nomadic life within America. This film is beautifully shot and directed by Chloe Zhao — oddsmakers have the rising Chinese star as a lock to win Best Director, with her currently sitting -3335 odds.

For me, McDormand provides the best value among the top-four betting choices. She’s clearly someone the Academy voters love, having bestowed the golden man on her twice in the past five years in this category. The other intriguing angle on McDormand is the fact she went out and recruited Zhao for this film; not the other way around. That should resonate with voters due to the fact Zhao was obviously the perfect choice for job.

I played McDormand at a lower number a few weeks back, so I definitely grabbed her at +400 when she drifted up after the market moved toward Mulligan. That said, I don’t see the odds changing, but I’d take McDormand as low as +150 if there’s a shift prior to Sunday’s show.

Andra Day +600

Collin Whitchurch: By far the most interesting of the major award categories, these odds have zigzagged all over the place, and favorite Carey Mulligan’s current price actually lists her at plus odds for the first time since early February. Shortly thereafter, she moved to -190 and has been around there until recently, when buzz for Viola Davis changed the game entirely.

Davis — whose performance as Ma Rainey was the best acting performing of the year across the board and absolutely deserves this award — didn’t come out of nowhere, of course. But as recently as mid-March, she was tracking around the fourth-best odds, behind Frances McDormand and Andra Day, along with Mulligan. An honor by the Screen Actors Guild lowered her odds, but are complicated by the fact that the BAFTAs honored McDormand.

Further complicating things is the fact that Mulligan wasn’t honored by either, and there’s been only one time in history when the Academy Award Best Actress winner wasn’t honored by either the SAG or the BAFTAs: 1994, which just so happens to be the first year of the SAG Awards, when the Oscar went to Jessica Lange (Blue Sky), the SAG Award went to Jodie Foster (Nell) and the BAFTA went to Susan Sarandon (The Client).

But wait, there’s more.

Andra Day was awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for Best Actress (drama) at the Golden Globes. The Globes split their awards into two categories, of course, but the last time neither of the Globes Best Actress awards went to the actress who won at the Academy Awards was 2001, when Halle Berry won the Oscar for Monster’s Ball while Nicole Kidman won a Globe for Moulin Rouge! and Sissy Spacek won one for In The Bedroom. The other time that happened was in 1994, the same year the SAGs and BAFTAs got it wrong.

So to sum it all up, Mulligan — the favorite — winning this award would mean the Academy Awards’ Best Actress wouldn’t have won at the SAGs, BAFTAs or Golden Globes, something that’s only happened once in history, 27 years ago.

Given all the chaos, the best advice I can give is to close your eyes and throw a dart. Or, in reality, take a flier on the most appealing odds among the four contenders (while pouring one out for Vanessa Kirby, who is very good in Pieces of a Woman). That means a bet on Day at the time of this writing, but whichever of the four have the highest odds at the book of your choice at the time of your wager would work just the same.

Andra Day +600

Collin Wilson: Still reeling from an Erivo 50-1 bet that closed 12-1 in 2020, we take another crack at predicting Best Actress.

The formula provided a winner in 2020 and is tried and true method to cash a ticket. The two biggest elements in determining a winner in this category is to play a historical character and the age of the nominee. For these five actors, the only historical characters are played by Viola Davis and Andra Day.

The average age of the winner in the Best Actress category is generally lower than 35 and greater than 60. Zellweger was only the third woman to ever win the award between the age of 50 to 59 years old. Davis falls into the neutral territory at 55 years of age, with McDormand at 63 years old and the remaining candidates 36 and under.

In past years when there were two nominees who played historical characters, the expectation is a victory 40% of the time. That actual number is 47% since the award was first given in 1929. The analytics point to an upset here with Andra Day, but splitting a unit with Davis is a solid backup plan.

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