Magnolia, Duplass Brothers Launch First Oscar Campaign for Transgender Actresses (EXCLUSIVE)

Transgender Hollywood
Daniel Bergeron

Tangerine,” Sean Baker’s Sundance darling about two transgender prostitutes on a Christmas Eve jaunt through Los Angeles, might not seem like your typical Oscar movie. But against the backdrop of the Emmys recognizing Laverne Cox’s performance in “Orange is the New Black” in 2014, Magnolia Pictures and the Duplass brothers, who produced “Tangerine,” are launching an Oscar campaign for the indie, Variety has learned. It’s the first time a movie distributor has ever backed an awards season push for a transgender actress in Hollywood history.

In fact, “Tangerine” features two breakout transgender stars. Magnolia will be trumpeting newcomer Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in the best actress category and Mya Taylor, who Baker met at a LGBT center just as she was transitioning, for best supporting actress.

The scrappy campaign — which is forgoing traditional “For Your Consideration” advertising — will officially kick off on Tuesday night, during an Academy conversation with the Duplass brothers, where Jay and Mark will show a clip from the film. Magnolia plans on sending “Tangerine” screeners to the actors branch of the Academy, as well as cinematographers (the movie was shot on an iPhone 5s) and screenwriters, in a bid to gain heat for the script, which Baker developed with his actresses and co-writer Chris Bergoch.

“Jay and I are new to the Academy, so we’re just figuring this whole thing out,” Mark Duplass tells Variety. “One thing that has become apparent to us as we look at this stuff, it seems that the TV Academy has embraced what’s happening in the trans movement with ‘Transparent’ and ‘Orange is the New Black.’ We feel that the film Academy is a little behind on that front.”

Although movie characters who are transgender have been rewarded with Oscar nominations, including Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club,” Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry” and Felicity Huffman in “Transamerica,” all the actors behind these performances are cisgender. “This is the time for it,” Duplass says of the Academy nominating a transgender actor for playing a transgender part. “We’re in the middle of a civil rights movement.”

Adds Eamonn Bowles, the president of Magnolia Pictures, which acquired “Tangerine” out of Sundance in January: “The trans aspect will undoubtedly garner the film attention, but frankly the best strategy is to get as many voters to see it as possible,” he says. “It stands alone among the contenders in its tone, aspirations and achievement.”

When “Tangerine” opened in July in limited release, it received strong reviews, despite a box office tally of only $700,000. The Duplass brothers hope to get the word out for “Tangerine” by inviting friends to tastemaker screenings in Los Angeles and New York, starting in November. Jay also has close ties with Hollywood’s transgender artists through his role as the son on Amazon Studios’ “Transparent.” “We’re in this community of filmmakers who share movies,” Mark says. “When we find a movie that we love, we share it with them. We haven’t done that inside the Academy yet. But Jay and I will do a lot of the legwork ourselves — ‘Hey, we love this movie. We think it’s special. Will you watch it and show it to your friends?'”

Mark thinks it’s only a matter of time before the Oscars recognize a transgender actor. “Maybe we’re not the first one to get a trans actor nominated,” he says. “It’s not a loss if we don’t. This is a long play in our minds.”

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  1. freowif says:

    It’s a pity the film celebrates violence against women.

  2. HS( says:

    Mya Taylor won the SF Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress… so it very well COULD happen.

  3. Anita Perry says:

    What is so special about Tangerine? Men have been slapping women around since forever. I guess it’s supposed to be revolutionary because the dude is wearing a dress. Sin-Dee (a male) goes after a “fish” (trans slang for a female), and gives her the Chris Brown treatment. Sin-Dee is larger and stronger than the woman. Tangerine’ features an extended sequence of a man repeatedly slapping, battering, dragging and lifting a kidnapped woman, violence which goes on for several scenes and is played for laughs: because the male perpetrator is a transwoman.

    • Derek Hudson says:

      This comment is painfully and embarrassingly ignorant. You sound like you’re having a great time with your two sheep in backwoods Kentucky.

  4. Finally! Can we finally agree that trans actresses and actors exist? This film and the two lead actresses Kitana and Mya make me so proud! Let’s hope their voices and this film will contribute to the discussions taking place already within our trans community about the juxtaposition of visibility and safety.

  5. BeetleJuice says:

    Pretty soon, Hollywood is going to run of extremely tiny groups to feign sympathy for. Before long, we’ll be on the “left-handed Native Americans under 5 feet tall” who are so sorely misrepresented in Hollywood.

  6. Mitchem says:

    So they should be nominated simply because they are transgender? How is that fair to anyone else? No thanks.

    • You are jumping to a conclusion that says nothing about your opinion of the film and everything about your dislike of trans women. When I saw Leto’s pathetic and Oscar-winning portrayal of Rayon, a person who never actually existed, in the supposedly historically honest Dallas Buyer’s Club, I was deeply offended as much by his performance as his and director’s comments regarding transgender women.

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