Audiences feel equally excited and positive about Brendan Fraser and Austin Butler - the best actor showdown could be a nailbiter

3 March, 2023

It’s officially awards season and as we approach the Academy Awards ceremony on March 12th all eyes are on the talent jockeying to get the nod from the Academy.  While it is important to remember that these awards represent the approval of industry insiders and not the general public, several indicators in recent years have shown how the talent and content being recognized by these awards ceremonies are becoming more aligned with popular opinion. If we zoom in on the Best Actor category we see a tight two-way race for audience favorite.


So far this year two nominees in the Best Actor category stand above the rest in terms of audience demand.  Brendan Fraser and Austin Butler both had an exceptional level of demand, putting them in a class well ahead of other nominees and in a category that only a small fraction of talent reach.  The two actors had around 70 times the average talent demand, with Austin Butler having a slight edge so far this year.  Throughout this awards season it has been a close matchup between these two actors:

  • Austin Butler won the “Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama” category  at the Golden Globes which led to his demand peaking at 145x.
  • Brendan Fraser nearly matched this following his Critic’s Choice Award win and emotional speech on January 15th when his demand hit 140x.
  • Most recently Mr. Fraser nabbed the SAG award for Best Actor on Feb 27th, which drove his demand up to 114x.

Another dimension we can look at when comparing how these two actors stack up is their audience sentiment - essentially how positive or negative audiences feel about them. All the nominees in the Best Actor category have a net positive sentiment so far this year (anything above 0 is a net positive sentiment). This is to be expected, after all, awards season is a victory lap for most of these actors who now get to celebrate the recognition for their great work last year.

Paul Mescal had the most positive audience sentiment this year. This is a good example of the trade-off talent can face between greater awareness (higher demand) and positive sentiment. As actors grow their audience base they bring in more people who are neutral or even negative toward them. Paul Mescal and Bill Nighy had the lowest demand but highest sentiment among this year’s nominees. In other words a smaller audience is engaging with them but that audience is more likely to be positive about them.

Brendan Fraser and Austin Butler had the highest demand and also fairly high positive sentiment. Both had similarly high levels of positive sentiment from their audience. When it comes to how audiences feel about these actors, there again isn’t a clear winner between these two headed into the Oscars.


One way these two actors have distinguished themselves is the makeup of their audiences. When it comes to the gender breakdown of their fanbases, Austin Butler has a more female skewing audience (a nearly two-to-one ratio) while Brendan Fraser’s fans are more evenly split.

Austin Butler’s audience is made up of a surprisingly balanced age distribution, nearly evenly split between the four generational cohorts we consider. While one might have expected his audience to skew younger, given his own age and acting history on the Disney Channel and in teen dramas, it seems that his breakout role as Elvis has won him older fans in the 40+ age group.

Brendan Fraser has a noticeably strong Millennial fanbase. Nearly 70% of his audience was in the 23 - 39 age group. Anecdotally, his Gen Z co-star in The Whale, Sadie Sink, didn’t know who he was at their first table read. Hopefully his comeback with this role will allow him to expand his fan base beyond his core audience, starting with his co-star.

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