Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler’s omission from the Oscars nominations were certainly a shock (Picture: Getty)
When the Oscars 2023 nominations were announced earlier this month, the best actress category seemed pretty predictable at first glance.
Cate Blanchett has been making noise thanks to her performance in Tar and Michelle Williams has won applause for her role in The Fabelmans.
Even Ana de Armas earning a nod for her performance as Marilyn Monroe in Blonde and Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere All At Once, were perhaps slight curveballs but still expected given the buzz about them during awards season so far.
However on second glance, I noticed that Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler – who were hotly-tipped for nominations after their turns in The Woman King and Till respectively – were missing and, instead, a name I wasn’t too familiar with – Andrea Riseborough – was among the high-profile list.
After double-checking I was indeed looking at the right category, I thought, well, this Andrea must be a phenomenal actress to have a chance at winning a prestigious Oscar alongside those other A-listers.
I felt hugely disappointed for Davis as her performance in The Woman King was arguably one of the best of her career – passionate, heartbreaking and fierce – and I knew that Deadwyler had received rave reviews for her performance as Emmett Till’s mother in the gut-wrenching Till.
My disappointment then turned to frustration once I learned about the not-so-subtle campaigning for Riseborough that had suddenly happened in the weeks before the nominations were announced.
And the Academy board is absolutely right to launch its review into whether rules were broken.
Andrea Riseborough’s nod for her performance in To Leslie was unexpected to say the least (Picture: Momentum Pictures)
Davis’ performance in The Woman King was praised across the board (Picture: AP)
Deadwyler also received applause for her role in Till (Picture: AP)
It turns out that a host of actors – who happen to be white – had pledged their support for the 41-year-old British actress and her indie film To Leslie, which has made just $27,000 (£21,800) at the box office compared to big-budget releases such as Blonde, The Fabelmans and even snubbed blockbuster Woman King.
Kate Winslet, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon and even Oscar nominee Blanchett herself, were among those who began praising Riseborough’s performance on social media and in interviews, which, in itself, isn’t a bad thing. However, the timing of it certainly raised eyebrows; the fact it was quite clearly a campaign to get her a foot in the Oscars door.
Blanchett even used the opening minute of her Critics Choice speech to single out Riseborough’s performance, describing it as overlooked in acting awards.
I was particularly incensed to see Frances Fisher’s comment in support of Riseborough. The Titanic actress posted several social media messages for Riseborough and in one, listed all the actresses she felt were ‘a lock’ for the nomination, including Davis and Deadwyler.
Frances Fisher urged Academy voters to choose Riseborough – as Davis and Deadwyler were already, apparently, a shoe-in (Picture: Getty Images)
Kate Winslet was among the stars who suddenly pledged their support for Riseborough (Picture: WireImage)
Cate Blanchett, herself nominated for the best actress Oscar, publicly backed Riseborough (Picture: Rex Features)
Given the 95-year history of Black talent being snubbed or not always faring well at the Oscars, I would think it would be best to not say anything that could have an impact on their chances of receiving a nomination.
Halle Berry was the first Black woman to win the best actress Oscar in 2001 and since then – in 22 years – only six other Black women have been recognised in the category, with Davis being nominated twice.
Berry remains the only Black woman to have won in that category.
Riseborough simply being nominated isn’t the sticking point for me – I haven’t watched To Leslie but assume her performance was Oscar-worthy given the reaction. I actually appreciate that a lesser-known talent has shaken things up at the Academy, which is notoriously stale and predictable.
What I don’t appreciate is it being at the detriment of the inclusion of Black talent when Riseborough’s nomination is quite clearly the result of white privilege – where was this level of campaigning for Davis and Deadwyler from Hollywood’s elite?
It’s well-known that most actors who receive Oscars nominations and those who eventually win have put the work in by campaigning during awards season, including attending some of the other ceremonies to keep themselves visible (which Riseborough hasn’t done, by the way).
Leonardo DiCaprio and his constant stream of interviews telling us every minute detail of how painstaking it was to film The Revenant in those very real icy elements before finally winning his long-awaited and well-deserved best actor Oscar in 2016, will always come to mind as the perfect example of how to campaign for an Academy Award.
And fair enough, if that’s how the system works, it’s how it works.
What I don’t agree with is high-profile actors using their white privilege to sway the voting results, which may have happened in this case with Riseborough as the Academy has launched an investigation.
If rules were broken, those actors should be held accountable, publicly named and the nominations for best actress revised.
With this current drama surrounding the latest Oscars race row, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was 2015 again, when the #OscarsSoWhite controversy first took hold of Hollywood.
Eight years later, and it feels like nothing has truly been learnt.
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Andrea Riseborough may have deserved her nomination but not through questionable lobbying.