Willem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire
Benicio Del Toro, Traffic *
Albert Finney, Erin Brockovich
Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator
This is the category most crammed with worthy performances, but Del Toro, playing a dedicated Mexican police officer, shone as Traffic’s moral center. Speaking most of his lines in Spanish, he etched a layered portrait of a good man trying hard to do the just thing in a corrupt world where the line between right and wrong is never straight and often blurry. Backup pick: Dafoe, who managed slyly to carry Shadow of the Vampire on blood-drenched fangs.
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