The movie awards industry is buzzing following the news that the Academy is “conducting a review of campaign procedures” after Andrea Riseborough received a surprise best actress Oscar nomination for the independent drama “To Leslie.”
The “grassroots” campaign enlisted numerous famous names to help spread the word about the small indie, but did that break any rules or just smartly play the awards game?
Celebrity influencers aside, an Instagram post on the “To Leslie” page may have violated the Academy’s rules and guidelines.
In a post dated two weeks ago, the official Instagram account for “To Leslie” quoted Richard Roeper’s blurb from his top 10 films of 2022 article from the Chicago Sun-Times, where he listed the movie at no. 5. The quote reads: “As much as I admired Blanchett’s work in ‘Tár,’ my favorite performance by a woman this year was delivered by the chameleonlike Andrea Riseborough in director Michael Morris’ searing drama about a mom at the final crossroads in her life after she’s lost everything due to her drinking. With an insightful script by Ryan Binaco and fine supporting work by Marc Maron, Andre Royo, Allison Janney and Stephen Root, ‘To Leslie’ ranks with ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ and ‘Crazy Heart’ as modern-day classics about the ravages of alcoholism.”
This could be seen as a direct violation of the Academy’s campaign rules, specifically no. 11: “References to Other Nominees.”
Part B reads: “any tactic that singles out ‘the competition’ by name or titles is expressly forbidden.”
Though it quotes a critic rather than directly invoking the name of a competing hopeful, the fact that it comes from the film’s official Instagram could still be an issue.
“Let’s be fair during this process,” one Academy member of the Actors Branch tells Variety. “It doesn’t look good, but I don’t want to jump to conclusions. One violation isn’t the end for someone, nor should it be, but when you add the other X-factors and rumors to the mix, you have to look into it.”
“I feel bad for Andrea,” another member shares. “No matter what happens, her reputation is being tarnished, whether her campaign did something or not.”
This is ironic considering the post references Blanchett, who publicly named Riseborough, along with Tang Wei and Penélope Cruz when she won the Critics Choice Award for best actress earlier this month.
Actor Frances Fisher, a vocal advocate for Riseborough’s campaign on the circuit, also quoted Roeper’s story, but misrepresented it, stating, “Richard Roeper picked Andrea Riseborough at #5 out of 10 for Best Actress.”
Roeper named the film as his no. 5 movie of the year, not her specifically her performance.
On the post, Fisher tagged 20 members of the Actors Branch to get their attention, including Cher, Glenn Close, Alec Baldwin and Elizabeth Banks.
She also says in part in the post, “There are wonderful actresses in the running, fortunately, backed by multi-million dollar ad campaigns…Acting Branch – please watch To Leslie on Academy Screening Room app- once you do you’ll understand what I’m talking about. #NominateAndreaRiseborough”
Aside from the social media questions, there have been claims that representatives are directly reaching out to Academy members to solicit votes. The Academy’s regulations cover For Your Consideration (FYC) communications to members, but they are very broad, something the organization will likely have to address in future revisions of the rules.
The Academy does allow solicitations through the Academy’s approved mailing houses. Variety can confirm that the awards campaign for “To Leslie” sent FYC email blasts to members for screenings and Q&As. No evidence has been presented that Riseborough or anyone from her team directly reached out to AMPAS voters to ask for their support.
The Academy’s e-mail carries a hefty price tag for a self-funded campaign, charging $2,000 per blast to the entire Academy membership. A studio can only purchase one e-mail blast per week. Variety can also confirm that “To Leslie” sent at least three e-mail blasts sent to AMPAS voters, which would have been purchased by Momentum Pictures or Riseborough’s campaign team, including Narrative PR and Shelter PR.
If for any reason the Academy were to rescind her nomination, the best actress lineup would remain at four, and Riseborough would not be replaced.
For various reasons, nine nominations have been rescinded throughout the 95 years of the Academy. That includes Charlie Chaplin for his film “The Circus” (1928) at the first ceremony to the most recent occurrence of Greg Russell, who was removed for best sound mixing for “13 Hours” (2016),