The American film academy has announced an investigation into the way Oscar campaigns can be run following the surprise nomination of Andrea Riseborough in the Best Actress category.
The nomination appeared on the back of a celebrity-backed grassroots campaign, featuring Q&A sessions and public shows of support from a number of A-listers, including Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Amy Adams and Jane Fonda.
Riseborough’s inclusion in the category came as a shock to industry pundits given her film To Leslie's absence from the rest of the awards season (Risborough is the only Best Actress contender not to pick up a nomination in either the BAFTAs, Golden Globes or Screen Actors Guild awards). The film also only made $27,000 on its limited release in October last year.
In a statement, the institution said: “It is the Academy’s goal to ensure that the awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner, and we are committed to ensuring an inclusive awards process. We are conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year’s nominees, to ensure that no guidelines were violated, and to inform us whether changes to the guidelines may be needed in a new era of social media and digital communication. We have confidence in the integrity of our nomination and voting procedures, and support genuine grassroots campaigns for outstanding performances.”
Grumblings emerged shortly after the nominees were announced last Tuesday, when accusations emerged that the film’s director, Michael Morris, and his wife, actor Mary McCormack, had been contacting their high-profile friends and asking them to support the picture on social media. Attention was also drawn to the similar wording of many of the posts, all calling To Leslie “a small film with a giant heart.”
I don’t post a lot about films or actor performances…maybe I should more often. But for those interested in really great acting I’ll share that Andrea Riseborough’s portrayal in ‘To Leslie’ just knocked me sideways. It’s about the most fully committed, emotionally deep… pic.twitter.com/62fN9FiNfc
— Edward Norton 🌻🇺🇦 (@EdwardNorton) January 10, 2023
But awards campaigns every year seem far from conventional to viewers outside the industry. With major studios spending eye-watering amounts on press, putting on screeners and Q&As for Academy voters and industry experts set to earn thousands for their educated opinions on who might win each race, the backlash to a tiny independent feature making the cut might not be entirely on the grounds of fairness.
In a statement to Deadline, Riseborough said she was “astounded […] It was so hard to believe it might ever happen because we really hadn’t been in the running for anything else. Even though we had a lot of support, the idea it might actually happen seemed so far away.”
Though the Academy was reportedly “inundated with calls” following the announcement, according to Variety no formal complaint has been filed. Members are set to meet tomorrow, where Riseborough’s nomination is said to be on the agenda.
For a full list of this year’s Oscar nominations, including Riseborough’s competition for Best Actress, check out our full list here.