Ed Harris did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying John Glenn in The Right Stuff.
It's interesting to look at Harris's work as a bit of an interesting counterpoint to Sam Shepard's performance as Yeager. Shepard exemplifies the true American hero who strives for the very best but with the utmost modesty and integrity. Well Harris's John Glenn is a little different, he's also an all American hero but of a different sort. The first time we see Glenn it is on a TV show and we meet the John Glenn as would be perceived in the media. Harris plays Glenn as the most obvious sort of all American hero in that it would be seemingly impossible not to recognized him as such. Harris brings the most upright of posture, the brightest of smiles and his whole demeanor is that of pure optimism. Harris manages quite a certain charm here of this very particular sort in his performance. He makes his Glenn just seem almost too good in his all American quality and Harris is great here by subverting it slightly. He makes Glenn the public hero he should so that all would seemingly love him but Harris makes it so extreme to show that to a certain degree that it is a facade for the press.
Glenn is not always in the public eye though and Harris presents a slightly different Glenn. Harris changes his performance just enough in that well he's not quite exactly the image he presents, although he's not entirely not that either. Harris rather presents a technically similair man but this time one that you can wholly believable. In the scenes with the other astronauts, particularly when they are in contention with one another, Harris shows that Glenn fervent belief in his own morality does not always make him the most likable. When Glenn yells at the other astronauts for a perceived unfaithfulness to their wives Harris does not portray Glenn's outrage as an endearing morality, but instead as a very passionate yet seemingly hate driven venom toward the other men. Harris does not try to make Glenn negative though but rather effectively wipes away the sheen he so brilliantly created in his earlier scenes. Harris is terrific though also in revealing a more positive side of Glenn in a more realistic sort of way.
Harris nicely, along with Ward, Quaid, and Scott Glenn, creates a real camaraderie between the astronauts as they begin their missions as well as start getting to know one another. There is not any obvious moments where each become friends really, but rather they are very good in naturally portraying the way they seem to accept each others as proper comrades. My favorite warmer scene with Harris is in his scenes with Mary Jo Deschanel as Glenn's wife Annie who suffers from a very sever stutter. Harris is particularly sweet in this scene as he portrays Glenn as almost kind of laughing at his own perfect image to his wife. Harris, in all his scenes with Deschanel, exudes such a comforting quality portraying Glenn's love for his wife but also the way he tries to protect from scrutiny due to her speaking disability. It's lovely work by Harris and shows the the true strength of his performance. It is rather fascinating in that he manages to create a portrait of John Glenn's image as false, well making it true at the same time.