A huge surprise. Andrea Riseborough scored an Oscar nomination in January 2023 for her performance in To Leslie — and her unexpected Best Actress in a Leading Role nod quickly led to an investigation.
“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 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said in a statement on Friday, January 27. “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.”
The organization concluded: “We have confidence in the integrity of our nomination and voting procedures, and support genuine grassroots campaigns for outstanding performances.”
Though not directly named, the investigation questioned the campaign for Riseborough’s nomination. To Leslie, an indie drama about an alcoholic, as released in October to little fanfare and only made about $27,000 at the box office. There was minimal promotion, but director Michael Morris and his wife, actress Mary McCormack, pushed to get their A-list pals — including Edward Norton, Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron and more — to help spread the word about the film.
Kate Winslet called Riseborough’s performance “the greatest female performance on screen I have ever seen in my life” during a virtual Q&A. However, many shared social media praise for the film with very similar wording, calling To Leslie “a small film with a giant heart,” Vanity Fair reports, sparking questions about how genuine these endorsements were.
Riseborough’s manager Jason Weinberg and McCormack, 53, both helped push for awards season consideration, media newsletter Puck reported while quoting one of the West Wing alum’s emails. “If you’re willing to post every day between now and Jan 17th, that would be amazing! But anything is helpful, so please do whatever makes you comfortable. And what’s more comfortable than posting about a movie every day!” McCormack’s email allegedly reads.
The Academy has strict rules about campaigning. Film companies aren’t allowed to send more than one email and one physical mailing per week, and there are content guidelines to follow. Mailings are not supposed to include “Personal signature, personal regards, or pleas to watch the film” nor can they “[extoll] the merits of a film, an achievement or an individual.”
Per the official rules, “Contacting Academy members directly and in a manner outside of the scope of these rules to promote a film or achievement for Academy Award consideration is expressly forbidden.”
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Bill Kramer announced on Tuesday, January 31, that Riseborough’s Oscar nomination would not be rescinded. “The Academy has determined the activity in question does not rise to the level that the film’s nomination should be rescinded,” Kramer said in a statement at the time. “However, we did discover social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern. These tactics are being addressed with the responsible parties directly.”
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