The One Thing These 4 2016 Oscar Movies Have In Common Is Pretty Remarkable

There are a few questions I'm guessing some viewers may have about the 2016 Oscars: how is it possible that the 2016 Academy Award nominations are even whiter than the 2015 Academy Award nominations? And, who's that skinny redhead in almost everything? The former I have no short or simple answer to, but the latter I can definitely tell you: it's Domhnall Gleeson, who had, to say the least, a banner year. The tall, slender, and Irish actor is in no less than four Oscar-nominated films across all categories, and somehow, Gleeson's stardom is just now being recognized.

Even though Gleeson, 32, began his career over a decade ago, he has still gone relatively under the radar despite being in some huge films (and not just in the past two years), including portraying Bill Weasley in Harry Potter. The Dublin-born actor doesn't mind, though, and doesn't think his anonymity will change any time soon. Gleeson told BuzzFeed that he doesn't think his roles in The Revenant, Ex Machina, Brooklyn, AND Star Wars: The Force Awakens will launch him to super-stardom soon. Which seems ridiculous and naive, but Gleeson might have good reason to believe it:

When I got into Harry Potter, people did tell me, 'Get ready. Things are going to change,' he said. 'Nothing changed. I mean, nothing changed. The odd night out, somebody would say, ‘I love Bill Weasley.’ That was it. And it wasn’t they love me, they just love Bill Weasley. So there’s no point in my stressing about Star Wars coming out. So if it happens, then I’ll have to just deal with it.

And it looks like he's going to have to deal with it, because it's likely going to happen, especially after playing the memorable fascist villain General Hux in The Force Awakens. Hux isn't a character that fades into the background, and even though Star Wars: The Force Awakens has only been in theaters for less than a month, Gleeson is officially part of the Star Wars canon of Dark Side baddies that are slightly ridiculous and must be destroyed.

Though he ended the year with his most commercially successful role, Gleeson starred in some of the best and most innovative films in Hollywood in 2015, including the gorgeous and chilling Ex Machina with Oscaar Isaac, who was also his co-star in Star Wars. In Ex Machina, Gleeson stars as Caleb, an employee of tech-company Blue Book who's invited by company CEO/ mad scientist Nathan (Isaac with a threatening beard) to his home for a secret project. Caleb learns he was chosen to administer the Turing Test to a very life-like robot, played wonderfully by Alicia Vikander. Things do not go well.

(Surprisingly, Ex Machina only earned two Oscar nominations, snubbing Oscar Isaac for what should have been a clear Best Actor nomination as well as Vikander who played the most sympathetic, real artificial intelligent being ever.)

Gleeson is also in the most-recognized movie of the year, the beautiful, bleak slog that is The Revenant, which earned a total of 12 nominations and might be known as the film Leonardo DiCaprio will finally win the Oscar for. Gleeson's final nominated film, Brooklyn, the period drama about a young Irish immigrant in the borough, stars Gleeson as Jim Farrell, Ideal Irish Man, one of the two young men that Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) is torn between. His most "normal guy" role all year, by far.

Gleeson has three films nominated for Best Visual Effects: Star Wars, The Revenant, and Ex Machina. He also worked with the great, and apparently very hardworking, Alejandro Iñárritu, who broke the spirit of actors he enlisted for The Revenant. Iñárritu earned a Best Director nomination for The Revenant, and he won last year for Birdman. Gleeson committed to the role of Captain Andrew Henry, and talking to another famous director/mentor of his in Interview Magazine, Angelina Jolie, he said filming was a miserable experience:

Alejandro told us at the beginning, 'I want you to be in pain.' Everyone held up a glass of wine. We thought we were going to cheer the journey ahead of us. And Alejandro started by saying, 'I want you all to be in pain.' So then it was, 'Oh, cheers?'

At the end of the day, though, my personal favorite work of Gleeson's across the board is not one of his many, many huge films this year, and not even Harry Potter, but his episode of Black Mirror from 2013. The BBC dystopian series explores, episode by episode, the horrors of technology and what they have wrought on a not-so-distant future.

Gleeson both wrote and starred in "Be Right Back," the first episode of the show's second season, telling the tale of a woman trying to deal with the loss of her boyfriend by buying a "clone" of him (played by Gleeson). It's a beautiful and heartbreaking foray into the uncanny valley, and I hope that Gleeson's ubiquity acting this year will allow him to write more in the future, as well. Black Mirror has just been renewed for a third season, and I hope Gleeson is writing episodes as I type this.

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Gleeson leaves me wondering: what's next for one of the most talented, ever-present, and versatile young redheads in Hollywood? Will he get his own acting nomination at the 2017 Academy Awards? And who is he going to sit with at the Oscars? Does this mean Gleeson, Leo, and Oscar Isaacs will all sit together? One can only hope.

Images: Fox Searchlight Pictures; Disney; A24; Netflix.