When the Academy Awards nominations were announced, one of the more surprising nominees was Andrea Riseborough for her role in To Leslie.
Reacting to the nomination, the 41-year-old British star told Deadline: “I’m 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.”
If you haven't heard of To Leslie, you aren’t alone.
The film made less than $30,000 at the box office during its limited release. The small independent production tells the story of a single mother who wins the lottery, with a number of celebrities coming out to share their praise for Riseborough’s performance during the Oscars voting period.
This celebrity-backing included big Hollywood stars such as Edward Norton, Jennifer Aniston and Kate Winslet, as well as Gwyneth Paltrow, who said on Instagram that Riseborough should win every award including “all the ones that haven’t been invented yet.”
Also on Twitter, other actors have posted seemingly cut-and-paste statements supporting the film, describing it as a “small film with a giant heart.”
However, all this campaigning may have broken the Academy’s rules. A Puck News article reported that the director's wife Mary McCormack "emailed and called tonnes of members of the Academy’s actors branch, begging them to see the little-watched alcoholic drama and post online about Riseborough’s searing performance”.
The Academy released a statement announcing a review on the nomination process on Friday, which read: “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.”
While the statement doesn’t name Riseborough or the film To Leslie directly, many have assumed the statement is about her surprise nomination. Critics have also pointed out that two black actresses who were considered frontrunners, Viola Davis for The Woman King and Danielle Deadwyler for Till, were noticeably not nominated for the award.
The Academy’s diversity problem has long been discussed, with some pointing out that the campaign behind Riseborough shows how much of an advantage it is to have the kind of famous connections she does.
It is still yet to be seen whether Riseborough’s nomination will be overturned, however, a similar situation occurred in 2014 when composer Bruce Broughton was nominated for the title song from “Alone Yet Not Alone”. He was later disqualified once it was revealed he had emailed Academy members during the voting period.
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