Denzel Washington posing as Macbeth in Joel Coen's the Tragedy of Macbeth

Why Did the BAFTAs Leave Out Denzel Washington and Andrew Garfield?

Two of the best performances of 2021 were that of Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth and Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson in the Netflix movie tick, tick…BOOM! So then why did the BAFTAs leave both of these performances off their Best Actor in a Leading Role list? Or, better yet, why did they leave both films out of the nominations in general?

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Announcing the nominees this morning, the BAFTAs surely just didn’t watch The Tragedy of Macbeth and tick, tick…BOOM! because that’s the only thing that makes any amount of sense.

While I have not seen Adeel Akhtar’s performance in Ali & Ava or Stephen Graham’s Boiling Point, I do know that Washington and Garfield’s performances were both better than what we got out of Leonardo DiCaprio in Don’t Look Up.

The Power of Washington’s take on Macbeth

Playing the Scottish King isn’t for just any man. He’s one of Shakespeare’s more complicated characters and one that isn’t easy to take on. Washington’s portrayal in Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth showed the pain and exhaustion that exists within Macbeth, as well as his obsession with power and his fear of losing it.

Washington has a magic about him in most every performance he brings us, but there is something extra special about how he approaches Shakespeare. From his role as Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing to his understanding of Shakespeare on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert up through The Tragedy of Macbeth, all of it shows how well Washington understands the Bard’s work.

His take on Macbeth was fresh in the way he took on the reveal of the prophecy. In the play, Macbeth is told that he cannot be killed by man who was born by woman. So, Macbeth foolishly thinks that it means he cannot die and goes into his quest for power with that knowledge only to learn of … well, C-sections. While many play Macbeth’s “immunity” as a power struggle, Washington kept his performance subdued as he watched the battle play out, and it worked incredibly well with Coen’s vision. The fact that Washington gave us one of the best performances of Macbeth overall, between both stage and screen, and is not nominated for a BAFTA—and, in fact, never has been in his entire, illustrious career—is truly outrageous.

Loss, love, and the magic of Garfield as Larson

tick, tick…BOOM! brought to life the stage musical of the same name from Jonathan Larson, who created Rent and is a character within the musical. Andrew Garfield played Larson in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut, and beautifully showed us all the power that he has as a performer and, surprisingly, as a singer. He showed Larson’s dedication to his work and the idea of running out of time in such a captivating way that audiences were thrown into the magic and learning more about the man who tragically died before he saw what his work with Rent meant to audiences.

Garfield is, for the most part, what makes this movie work in the way that it does. His performance brings together the work of Larson in a way that has you crying throughout the film and wanting to immerse yourself in the ’90s era of musical theater and Larson’s work as a whole. There is a scene in the film where Larson, after learning of his friend Michael’s AIDS diagnosis, is upset and runs through Central Park to the Delacorte Theater, where he performs the song “Why” in an empty theater with just a piano, and that scene alone Is worth an Academy Award.

Twitter isn’t happy

Rightfully so, Twitter is upset about the snubs because BAFTA has a history of snubbing Washington, and to also snub the buzz-worthy performance of Garfield just felt like they were picking favorites and not nominating the best work out there.

https://twitter.com/xmatchabluex/status/1489247970897772545

And Washington and Garfield weren’t alone. The BAFTAs left out a number of frontrunners from this awards season that just feels completely off.

Hopefully, this isn’t a reflection of how the Academy Awards will be. Both Garfield and Washington gave two of the best performances of the year, and for the BAFTAs to leave them out of the race just feels wrong.

(image: Apple TV/Netflix)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.