Is it time for Will Smith to take home the Oscar?

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Illustration of Will Smith for the article Who's Counting.
Will Smith has had two Oscar nominations but no wins. Will he get a third try? (Illustration by Désirée Kelly/ For the Times)

Will Smith, a front-runner for a lead actor Oscar for his performance as ultimate tennis dad Richard Williams in “King Richard,” is considered overdue for an Academy Award even though he’s been nominated only twice without winning. Here’s why:

1993

While still TV’s “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Smith took an unexpected role as a gay con man who pretends to be Sidney Poitier’s son, in “Six Degrees of Separation.” Smith won critical praise but no nomination, possibly because …

1

Tom Hanks’ ultimately Oscar-winning role in “Philadelphia” might have met the Academy’s limit for 1993 on actors playing gay men.

2

Smith’s Muhammad Ali in “Ali” was great but Denzel Washington (“Training Day”) was deemed the greatest at the 2002 Oscars. Forest Whitaker’s towering Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland” beat out Smith’s subtler work in “The Pursuit of Happyness” in 2007.

3

Smith’s roles in “I Am Legend,” “Hancock” and “Concussion” showed awards-caliber range but failed to win Oscar attention.

4

The film Academy doesn’t understand Smith the way the Recording Academy does: He’s won four Grammys from eight nominations.

5

Smith could become only the fifth Black actor to win a lead Oscar, after Poitier, Washington, Jamie Foxx and Whitaker. Poitier, who died on Jan. 6 at age 94, was the first, for his performance in 1963’s “Lilies of the Field.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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