EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has yet to officially decide. But, according to my sources, the studio is “heavily leaning” toward pushing Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps‘s Michael Douglas for Best Supporting Actor. That’s a very different Oscar race than Best Actor where Douglas won the Academy Award for playing the same Gordon Gekko in 1987’s Wall Street. But it makes sense. Even though he is first billed and is perceived as the star of Oliver Stone’s sequel, Douglas does not have nearly the amount of screen time as co-star Shia LaBeouf. Most importantly, I’m told Douglas himself feels that Gekko is really a supporting role this time around. Here’s another complication: Anchor Bay is campaigning Douglas in the Lead Actor race for the May released Solitary Man. So, by suggesting voters consider Douglas’ second Gekko go-round as supporting work, Fox would be making it easier for everyone involved.

The studio is waiting to see where the Hollywood Foreign Press Association puts him in Golden Globe competition, although the HFPA is giving a freer hand to distributors when it comes to placing contenders this year than they have in the past. But, unlike other awards groups, the Academy Of Motion Picture & Arts Sciences does not suggest categories on their official ballots but leaves that up to the individual voters in the acting branch. Through advertising, though, a studio will try to sway voters in one clear direction. But it doesn’t always work. Susan Sarandon famously voted for herself in supporting for Atlantic City (1981) but was surprised when she found herself nominated for lead actress. The debate about the push for lead vs. supporting is one that rages every year and Oscar history is littered with actors in lead roles who win for supporting (ie Timothy Hutton in 1980’s Ordinary People) or actors in supporting roles who win for lead (ie Patricia Neal in 1963’s Hud).

Reviews on Wall Street‘s sequel 23 years later have been generally mixed since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May and its domestic opening on September 24th. (About 55% positive overall at Rotten Tomatoes, and 64% among top critics). Reviewers have been kind to Douglas although many have complained about Gekko’s out-of-character soft turn in the last scene. Still, with the one-two punch of Solitary Man and Wall Street 2, coupled with the continuing concern about the state of his health ever since he announced in late summer that he is battling Stage 4 throat cancer, there is a lot of goodwill towards the actor. And that could easily spread to the Oscar race, with his iconic Gekko role the likely beneficiary in Supporting. Problem is, the category is extremely competitive already with major contenders surfacing, particularly in upcoming films. Expected to compete strongly are Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech (Nov 24) and Christian Bale said to be sensational in The Fighter (Dec 10), and Matt Damon in the yet-to-be-seen True Grit (Dec 25). There also could Jim Broadbent for Another Year (Dec 29) and Ed Harris for The Way Back (Dec 29). Already mentioned on many lists are The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake, Conviction‘s Sam Rockwell, The Town‘s Jeremy Renner, and The Kids Are All Right‘s Mark Ruffalo.

If Douglas does manage a nomination, the odds are longer for a win. Douglas already has two Oscars, including one as producer of the 1975 Best Picture, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. His 1987 Best Actor Oscar for Wall Street reps his only recognition and nomination for acting. No thesp has ever won two Oscars for playing the same character, although four, to my count, have been in contention twice for essaying the same role. (Al Pacino as Michael Corleone was nominated for Supporting Actor in 1972 for The Godfather and upped to lead actor in 1974’s The Godfather Part ll. Peter O’Toole played King Henry ll in two unrelated films, Becket (1964) and again in The Lion In Winter (1968), winning Best Actor noms for both. Bing Crosby took back to back noms as Father O’Malley in Going My Way (1944) and The Bells Of St. Mary’s (1945), winning for the former. And a quarter of a century passed before Paul Newman finally won as Fast Eddie Felson in The Color Of Money (1986) after first being nominated for the role in 1961’s The Hustler. I always thought Newman was robbed for the latter (Maximilian Schell in Judgment At Nuremberg beat him) so his eventual Felson victory 25 years later was a sweet Oscar moment.