The film academy has announced a review of “campaign procedures” in the wake of a backlash to this year’s Oscar nominations.
The British actor Andrea Riseborough gained a surprise best actress nod for her role in indie To Leslie after a grassroots campaign backed by A-listers including Kate Winslet, Jane Fonda, Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow and Amy Adams.
While the academy doesn’t mention Riseborough or the actors involved in the last-minute campaign, the statement alludes to questions that have arisen since this week’s announcement.
“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,” the statement reads. “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.”
Riseborough’s inclusion in the category led to surprise from many prognosticators given the film’s low profile during the awards season. Her film To Leslie made only $27,000 on its release last October and while she was nominated for an Independent Spirit award, she was not picked by either the Golden Globes or Screen Actors Guild.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the film’s director, Michael Morris, and his wife, actor Mary McCormack “contacted nearly every one” of their famous friends asking them to watch the film and spread the word about it on social media. Support soon followed with Theron hosting a screening back in November, Winslet leading a Q&A and online posts appearing from others, including Edward Norton and Susan Sarandon. Many posts also included similar wording, referring to the film as “a small film with a giant heart”.
Riseborough told Deadline that she was “astounded” by the nomination. “It was so hard to believe it might ever happen because we really hadn’t been in the running for anything else,” she said. “Even though we had a lot of support, the idea it might actually happen seemed so far away.” Winslet also said it was “hard-won” and “deeply deserved”.
Sources claim to Variety that the academy has been “inundated” with calls and emails about the nomination but no formal complaint has been filed. The academy is set to meet on Tuesday and reportedly this will be on the agenda.
Riseborough is included in the category alongside Cate Blanchett, Ana de Armas, Michelle Williams and Michelle Yeoh.