Alexander Knox received his only Oscar nomination for portraying President Woodrow Wilson in Wilson.
Alexander Knox must portray the just about perfect Wilson. Wilson is probably not the greatest character, or least displayed in this movie to have to portray. It automatically reduces the actors ability at portraying range, sense Wilson is shown to almost always as a calm controlled man, in fact when he becomes the least like himself it is only stated as such off screen.
Knox therefore has quite a challenge lined out for himself, since it is required to portray Wilson in a fairly restrained fashion, but at the same time he must also make him a compelling character nonetheless. The fascinating thing is Knox does indeed manage to be interesting as Wilson, and finds a colorful way to portray Wilson's properness, to make it actually rather endearing, while still making Wilson a rather upright citizen.
Knox manages to make Wilson a very likable character, when he could have been easily an overly stuffy character. Knox though manages to find the right charm within Wilson, even if it is a rather proper charm for this proper man. Knox always finds the humanity within the character, he never portrays him as just an espouser of principals, but instead a man first of all, but a man with principals.
Knox is able to delve into Wilson's personal life, and he carefully handles these scenes without comprises the whole of the character, but adding the right amount of heart into his performance. He shows Wilson's softer sides in two scenes especially one where he talks about his early days with his first days, where Knox has the perfect honest emotion to make the scene quite heartbreaking. Later Knox once again is able to show Wilson's more personal life with Wilson's courting of his second wife. A lot of time is not devoted to their relationship, but Knox takes what he has and always shows the right underlying warmness he has for his second wife, that really works well.
The most important aspect of his performance though is whether or not he can come off as presidential material, which Knox does with ease. Knox has a whole slew of scenes of speeches, and with each one he holds absolute attention with his precise, and passionate delivery. Knox does a great job in showing how Wilson has to adjust for every different situation, and finds the right tone for each scene, showing the right charisma and passion whether it is a huge crowd, in front of just his cabinet, or facing against the German ambassador.
His best speech though is his closing speech where he is exhausted from trying to promote accepting the league of nations. It is an incredible scene where he struggles to get through to with his ideal he holds so high, and eventually is unable to continue. It is an extremely powerful moment, and probably his best scene. His whole performance is good, Knox shows here that even though a character can be just about perfect, it can most certainly still be an interesting character.