As always, there’s a lot of fuss about this year’s Oscar nominations, specifically in the Best Actress category. Everyone knew this year’s Best Actress race would be stacked, but most of the attention was on the fundamental two-woman race between Michelle Yeoh and Cate Blanchett. It was widely assumed by all the Oscars tipsters that Viola Davis would be nominated for The female kingMichelle Williams would likely be nominated for The Fabelmansand that Up to Danielle Deadwyler and possibly Margot Robbie (Babylon) would fight for the last spot. But when the names came out yesterday, the shortlist did not include Margot, Danielle OR Viola. Instead, Ana de Armas was nominated for the torture of Marilyn Monroe p-rn Blondand Andrea Riseborough snuck in with her performance in To Leslie.
To be clear, while I haven’t seen To Leslie, I’m sure Andrea put in a good performance. She’s a wonderful actress and a real shape-shifter, even more so than Cate Blanchett. My biggest qualm is that Ana de Armas doesn’t belong on this list for Blond. It was bad. The movie was awful. Yet the trade papers focus much more on how Andrea ended up getting her nomination with no money for an Oscar campaign and a purely word-of-mouth performance. Variety tried to track exactly what happened and when it started:
So how did such a small film come together, seemingly at the last minute? Awards experts incorrectly assumed that the celebrity-backed campaign, while notable, was a bit too late for a nomination to happen. It was all about the support of the film community, Riseborough said on Tuesday.
“The idea that you need infinite resources, I don’t think is necessarily true,” Riseborough told Variety shortly after the Oscar nominations were announced on Tuesday morning. “The people who made sure of this are our community. It’s like the film community has rallied and made some noise.
A campaign of sorts began in October when Howard Stern began touting the film on his SiriusXM show. “To Leslie” director Michael Morris and his wife, actress Mary McCormack, showed the film to Stern in July at the annual wedding anniversary celebration they share with the Sterns. McCormack and Stern’s relationship dates back decades, when she played the shock athlete’s first wife, Allison, in his 1997 biopic “Private Parts.” According to sources, Stern asked to see “To Leslie” after Morris and McCormack told him about the film and showed him the rave reviews in the trades – including Variety – that came out after the film premiered at South By Southwest. in March 2022.
Stern then began touting “To Leslie,” which was shot in just 19 days in Los Angeles during the height of the COVID pandemic, on his show to coincide with the film’s fall release. “It really took everyone by surprise,” a source told me.
A screening hosted by Charlize Theron at the CAA followed. After Riseborough landed a Spirit Award nomination, McCormack got to work with the help of publicity powerhouses Shelter PR and Narrative PR. McCormack emailed friends asking them to publicly support the film and Riseborough’s performance, even including images and suggested hashtags and accounts to tag in social media posts. “If you are ready to post daily by January 17 [the last day of Oscar nomination voting], that would be great!” she wrote in an email obtained by Variety. “But everything helps, so please do what makes you comfortable. And what could be more comfortable than publishing a film every day!
More celebrity endorsements have begun to flood into awards season. Among those who posted praise on social media were Sally Field, Liam Neeson, Jane Fonda, Laura Dern, Catherine Keener, Geena Davis and Mira Sorvino. Other screenings of “To Leslie” were hosted by Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore, Courteney Cox and Edward Norton. Minnie Driver will host a screening tomorrow night in Los Angeles. Kate Winslet and Amy Adams hosted a virtual Q&A with Riseborough. Cate Blanchett was so moved by Riseborough’s performance that she praised her during her acceptance speech at the Critics’ Choice Awards.
Mary McCormack has worked with many powerful people in Hollywood, and it seems Mary used the tools of her position and convinced many of her actress friends to give the film a chance. It also helps that Andrea is well-liked and respected in the industry, too — she’s more of a character actress, and decades of hard work paid off when her peers said yes, an Oscar nomination for you. What I really understand is that in addition to Howard Stern, this effort was also very much driven by women in the industry. And it’s amazing. But Viola should still have been nominated instead of Ana de Armas.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid.