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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Peter Dinklage’s Musical Chops in ‘Cyrano’ Shapes the Oscars Race Out of Telluride

Peter Dinklage’s musical interpretation of the “friend zone” took center stage at the Telluride Film Festival for the world premiere of “Cyrano,” and a leading Oscar contender for best actor appeared to emerge.

The premiere started with an actor’s tribute to Dinklage, which highlighted notable performances such as his Emmy-winning role in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

Once the film began, the crowd was elated with the music, orchestrated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner, who also compose on another Telluride feature this year, “C’mon C’mon.” The anticipation for Joe Wright’s vision of the off-Broadway musical was felt throughout the day by attendees. After turning nearly 100 people away due to spacing, “Cyrano” will likely still be a hot ticket throughout the weekend.

Dinklage’s work is simply sublime, a performance that could achieve his first actor nomination from the Academy Awards. As musicals seem to be having a considerable moment in the business (let’s continue this trend, Hollywood!), the combination of his stunning career mixed with a fully-realized interpretation of the famed character could push him to the forefront of awards discussions.

This type of acclaim is not unfamiliar to Dinklage. He emerged as one of the most exciting actors in Tom McCarthy’s 2003 independent feature “The Station Agent,” for which he received a SAG nomination for best actor. Since then, he’s picked up three supporting actor Emmy Awards for portraying Tyrion Lannister in the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” in addition to winning a SAG ensemble prize with the cast of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

The “Cyrano” adaptation, scripted by Erica Schmidt, Dinklage’s wife of over 15 years, is a re-imagining of the timeless tale “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmond Rostand. Rostand’s play has had many interpretations through the years. José Ferrer famously became the first Puerto Rican actor to win best actor for Michael Gordon’s 1950 film. Exactly 40 years later, Gérard Depardieu was nominated for the French version by Jean-Paul Rappeneau. Now, just over 30 years later, Dinklage looks to be in a prime position to join the elite club.

In what can be expected from any Wright period piece, the production is littered with gorgeous set designs, tenderly framed camera work and an ability to get the very best from his gifted actors.

Haley Bennett’s angelic vocals infuse Roxanne with a unique authenticity we haven’t seen in other outings. One of the key decisions will be where she decides to campaign, as her performance straddles lead and supporting.

As Christian, Kelvin Harrison Jr. continues to prove there’s nothing he can’t do. Running into his “Waves” co-star Taylor Russell, who is attending Telluride with her friend Bennett, she was equally taken by his work. In an intimate dinner following the screening, Dinklage says people often misinterpret Christian’s character in the story. “They say he’s stupid, but he’s not. He’s inarticulate,” which is a line in the film that perfectly describes his role in this world. As pure and good as he is, the supporting actor category could be on the table, only if the Academy goes head-over-heels with the film à la 2012’s “Les Misérables,” to which you can make apt comparisons.

Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography is a vibrant staple of many of Wright’s films, including his two nominated outings, “Atonement” and “Anna Karenina.” With some beautiful lighting and battle scenes shot on an active volcano, we should expect his work to be a topic of conversation during the season. The same goes for the costume designs by Massimo Cantini Parrini and production and set designs by Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer. Of course, a musical can often bring sound recognition as well, but it mostly depends on if this is going the way of hits like “Chicago” or “Dreamgirls” or also-rans like “Into the Woods.”

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