How Andrea Riseborough Scored An Oscar Nomination: Grassroots Campaign By Paltrow, Winslet, Blanchett And Others Built Momentum For Actress In Little-Seen ‘To Leslie’

by 24britishtvJan. 24, 2023, 7:20 p.m. 13
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Riseborough’s film To Leslie made little noise and just $27,000 at the box office — but a last-minute grassroots campaign organized by her peers made her a Best Actress Oscar nominee.

Riseborough stars as a woman struggling with addiction in To Leslie, which had a limited theatrical release in October. Her film was not widely seen and initially attracted little awards buzz — it generated just $27,000 at the global box office and the only significant awards mention Riseborough received before the Oscars was a Best Lead Performance nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards (she was overlooked by the Golden Globes and British Academy Film Awards, which are typically predictors of Oscars success). Riseborough benefitted from a last-minute Oscar campaign organized by fellow actors, including Kate Winslet, Amy Adams, and Gwyneth Paltrow, which raised her profile during the nominations voting period — and surprised awards observers for how sudden the surge in support was. The campaign struck some observers as unusual, particularly when actors who voiced their support used the same phrasing — To Leslie was called a “small film with a giant heart” in at least four social media posts, from Mia Farrow, Joe Mantegna, Dulé Hill and Meredith Vieira — which generated confusion and sparked internet memes. Despite the notable campaign, many awards predictors and bettors did not have Riseborough pegged for a nomination (Variety ranked her 18th in their final Best Actress predictions, and she ranked seventh in Gold Derby’s user-generated nomination predictions, with 72/1 odds). Riseborough was ultimately announced as a Best Actress nominee alongside Cate Blanchett (TÁR), Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once), Ana de Armas (Blonde), and Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans).

Riseborough, now a first-time Oscar nominee, is known for performances in films including Happy-Go-Lucky, Birdman, and Battle of the Sexes. As awards season kicked off, both her and her film were seldom mentioned as potential Oscar nominees — but just days before the voting period for Oscar nominations began on January 12, celebrities took to social media to launch a grassroots campaign on Riseborough’s behalf. On January 10, Edward Norton tweeted praises, calling Riseborough’s performance “really great acting” and “fully committed.” The same day, Gwyneth Paltrow hosted a screening of To Leslie with celebrity friends and posted about it on Instagram on January 11, declaring that “Andrea should win every award there is.” By the day Oscar voting opened, the list of celebrities praising Riseborough on social media had grown to include Susan Sarandon, Helen Hunt, Zooey Deschanel, Melanie Lynskey, Mira Sorvino, Constance Zimmer, Rosie O’Donnell, Minnie Driver, and Alan Cumming, Vulture reported. Kate Winslet (who will soon co-star with Riseborough in HBO series The Palace) moderated a Q&A with Riseborough and To Leslie director Michael Morris, during which Winslet declared Riseborough’s performance the “greatest female performance on-screen I have ever seen in my life.” Amy Adams similarly held her own Q&A with Riseborough. And when Cate Blanchett won her Best Actress trophy at the Critics Choice Awards, she shouted out Riseborough as one of several overlooked female performances of the year (while decrying the “televised horserace” of awards season). Riseborough’s word-of-mouth campaign remarkably contrasts with typical Oscar campaigns, which can cost film studios millions — but as an industry insider told IndieWire, “if there’s one thing this movie doesn’t have, it’s money.”

While praising Riseborough’s performance, some observers and film critics noted her celebrity-driven campaign could minimize space for Black women in contention for Best Actress, who have historically been snubbed in this category and don’t often see such surges in grassroots support. Danielle Deadwyler (Till) and Viola Davis (The Woman King), both widely expected to be nominated, were snubbed. “I had a feeling that the groundswell for Andrea Riseborough would kick out Deadwyler and Viola Davis. Which isn’t an anti-Riseborough tweet. But Black women quite literally never get that campaign. And are always harmed,” film critic Robert Daniels tweeted after the nominations announcement. “And I’m not even mad that Andrea Riseborough swung her way in there. It’s a great performance. But systematically it’s broken for Black women. And both can be acknowledged.”

What To Watch For

Will Riseborough ride the momentum of her surprise nomination to a surprise win? Awards pundits have generally considered the Best Actress race to be a close race between Cate Blanchett for TÁR and Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere All At Once, who both won Golden Globes for their performances. The 95th Academy Awards will be held on March 12.

Triangle of Sadness performed better than awards bettors and pundits had predicted, earning nominations for Best Picture, Director for Ruben Östlund, and Original Screenplay. Brian Tyree Henry also earned a surprise nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Causeway after largely being overlooked by other awards bodies.

11. That’s how many nominations Everything Everywhere All At Once received, leading the pack. It’s up for some of the biggest awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and acting awards for Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, and Jamie Lee Curtis. The Banshees of Inisherin and German film All Quiet On The Western Front were close behind with 9 nominations each.

Oscar Nominations 2023: ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ Leads Pack (Forbes)

What the Hell Is Going on with Andrea Riseborough’s Celebrity-Backed Oscar Campaign? (IndieWire)

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