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‘Little Women’ Takes Giant Step Into 2020 Oscar Race

If Wednesday night’s SAG-AFTRA screening of “Little Women” was any indication of enthusiasm for Greta Gerwig’s take on the classic tale, the cast could find themselves mainstays on the awards circuit.

It was a full house — and then some — at the DGA in West Hollywood. The venue was overbooked and several people were even turned away because they ran out of seats. At one point, “Little Women” producer Amy Pascal told one of the film’s reps that two of her friends “had to have seats,” but it was too late — Pascal’s friends left with the promise that they could attend a screening on Friday night.

Gerwig introduced the film, saying she was “really nervous and really excited.” “I just could not be more honored to share this with you, SAG, which is the first union that would have me. It was something when I got my SAG card it made me feel like I belonged,” she said to applause and cheers, adding, “You’re experiencing a moment with me. I’m having my moment.”

That moment also marked the film’s launch into awards season. Gerwig’s take on Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel is the sixth adaptation for the big screen. Gerwig could find herself with three noms herself for director, adapted screenplay and best picture. Just two years ago, she was nominated for directing and original screenplay for her directorial debut “Lady Bird.”

Gerwig’s emphasis on female empowerment and independence in “Little Women” should resonate well with voters. “It feels so incredibly pressing and modern and important to tell this story of these ambitious girls who want so much more than the world is able to provide them at this moment,” Gerwig said during a post-screening Q&A.

She added that despite a common belief that “Little Women” is a neatly wrapped story oozing with morality, there’s a lot that’s “messy and wild.”

Laura Dern, who plays Marmee March, said of Gerwig’s script, “It was so raw and so true and so bold and yes, punk rock and yes, Shakespearean.”

Saoirse Ronan could pick up her fourth Oscar nomination for lead actress for her work as Jo March. Other early frontrunners in that category include Renée Zellweger in “Judy” and Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell.”

The big buzz out of Wednesday night and a few screenings earlier this month is Florence Pugh’s portrayal of Amy March. An argument could be made that Pugh also deserves to be put up for lead, but Sony will likely launch Pugh’s campaign for supporting actress.

Dern could also snag a supporting nod, but that also means competing with herself for Netflix’s “Marriage Story.” Her role as a scrupulous divorce attorney in “Marriage Story” much flashier and more colorful than her work in “Little Women,” so it seems likely the Netflix drama will be her campaigning priority. “Marriage Story” was written and directed by Gerwig’s boyfriend, Noah Baumbach.

Then there’s Timothée Chalamet as Laurie. Another Academy Award nomination could be in his future, but finding a space in an already crowded field may prove difficult. But with so many contenders in that race, anything is possible.

The last adaptation of “Little Women” in 1994 earned three Oscar noms — Winona Ryder (best actress), Colleen Atwood (costume design) and Thomas Newman (original score) — but didn’t bring home any statuettes.

The chemistry of the new cast should also play well on the awards circuit. During the Q&A, they reminisced about Gerwig keeping her pregnancy a secret until the last days of shooting. Ronan said she noticed she might be expecting because she was eating a “full roast chicken” every day and wearing a lot of layers. Streep cracked, “It was cold but it wasn’t that cold.”

Ronan also teased Streep for ordering lunch at fast-food establishment Wendy’s. Without missing a beat, the acting legend quipped, “I was saving money.”

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