John Neville did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
John Neville throughout his film career mostly played minor roles with this film being a notable exception. It seems that Neville intended to make the most of that opportunity given the performance he grants any viewer of this film. Neville seems to call upon his inner C. Aubrey Smith to create the legendary, in his own words, Baron Munchausen. We initially meet the character as he introduces himself during a play about his life, which the elderly Baron does not approve of. Although Neville is highly enjoyable in delivering a most refined series of disapproving scoffs towards those failing to properly produce a play on his life, along with some particularly lustful glances towards the young women in the play, this is but a warm up to full force of Neville's performance as the titular man. This comes as the Baron tells the story of one of his previous exploits, that incurred a war with the Turks going on still during the play's performance, which in turns leads to a new adventure by the Baron. This somehow also returns him to a more youthful appearance and we are granted the undiluted legend by John Neville.
Neville's performance here is a sort of marvel in his crafting of the outrageous Baron. This is a full bodied performance in every sense as he makes no waste of his vibrant costuming, or his gigantic nose embracing them fully. What Neville does though is match all that with the sheer spirit of his portrayal of the Baron. Neville's work is of a legend in the making as there is such a grandeur to every aspect of work. This is from his posture that seems almost excessively straight proper for a real man of the very highest order. Any single gesture in the entirety of Neville's performance is something worth noting because it is though he is posing for a painting of a great hero in every moment, in any swing of the sword or moment of declaring one thing or another. Neville performs not as a man on top the world, but actually far above it. In terms of his physical work though my favorite aspect probably is that glorious mile wide grin Neville brings to the part. It is magnificent and fitting to a man who lives life in a way that no one else possibly could.
John Neville continues his marvelous approach though in his magnificent deliveries throughout the film. Again the grander the better seems to be Neville's idea here and I'm inclined to agree. In almost every statement, particularly those when it comes to naming his next move as an adventurer or even more so when he is speaking about his own greatness, Neville grants them a booming boasting voice filled with such overwhelming confidence. Neville grants this earned confidence almost in way through the sheer refinement of it all, since you must just accept that he know what he's doing, and what he says is true since it all sounds just so good coming out of that golden throat of his. Neville fashions in his performance a man who in all of his facets as a man matches the nature of the stories he tells, and the story we witness him in. Neville is downright amazing as his performance is somehow never overshadowed by director Terry Gilliam's outrageous vision. Neville instead brilliantly stands on top of it at every turn since somehow the Baron just seems a bit more than even the most wildest of his "dreams".
This is actually a rather curious performance to follow for such an adventure film as more often we follow a hero who isn't really use to the insanity, yes this is partially represented through the Baron's stowaway sidekick Sally (Sarah Polley), but the Baron is the true lead. The Baron is atypical since rather than discovering these various incredible places and people, the Baron is fashioning them in a way. Neville's performance though makes this absolutely work for this film in going about amplifying everything through the daring of approach that matches the daring of the Baron. Neville's performance is a performance that is simply so much fun to watch given how well he captures the style of this insane character. It becomes quite entertaining just to go along with him in this way where Neville offers such great spirit in every action scene by portraying a man who just lives for it all. I also do love his just ever so slightly altered approach when a woman comes along as he depicts the same overwhelming enthusiasm yet adjusts it to a lower key charm, well a lower key charm for the Baron it's still pretty outrageous for the average man. Neville is also consistently hilarious so often in this unabashed take, I have particular affection for his completely without shame delivery of "Yes" after one of his old servants accuses the Baron of having left him to rot in a cage yet still expects him to follow him. Neville makes it convincing that the servant would still follow the unrepentant Baron since his charisma is a bit magical. This is not a performance about a character arc, really the only thing that occasionally happens is the Baron gets down on himself and occasionally seems to accept his demise. Neville doesn't make these moments too serious showing them more of just a grumpy reaction to a potential reality setting in than a true loss of the man's spirit. That's just fine though as the film is entirely about going for the grand gestures in every respect, and Neville's whole performance is a singular grand gesture. I loved every second of this performance by John Neville as he simply becomes a man who perhaps died on more than a few occasions, but don't worry he's always alright in the end.