Not every race is what it seems, and so it goes with the first category decision of the season. Variety has confirmed Michelle Williams’ work as the piano-playing mother in Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” will be campaigned for the Oscars in best actress, instead of supporting as many pundits had speculated.
The film, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, won the prestigious People’s Choice Award and became the undisputed frontrunner in the early days of the awards season. One of the highlights of the cast was Williams’ turn as Mitzi Fabelman, a lover of the arts who serves as an inspiration for her filmmaking son Sammy (played by newcomer Gabrielle LaBelle).
The acclaim for the semi-autobiographical story of Spielberg’s childhood was palpable in Toronto, with many seeing Williams’ turn as a sure-fire ticket to her fifth career Oscar nomination, perhaps even a highly probable winner in supporting actress. The supporting actress field is now wide open for any of the cast from Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking,” such as Jessie Buckley or Claire Foy.
Can Williams top the two presumed actress frontrunners, Michelle Yeoh, from “Everything Everywhere All at Once” or Cate Blanchett from “Tár?”
Williams is a beloved actress in Hollywood. She’s an Emmy winner for FX’s “Fosse/Verdon” in 2019, one of only five performers that have swept all five television prizes (Golden Globes, SAG, TCA, SAG and Emmy). She’s been nominated for four Academy Awards – “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) and Manchester by the Sea” (2016) in supporting actress and “Blue Valentine” (2010) and “My Week with Marilyn” (2011) in lead actress.
It’s still up in the air whether Paul Dano, as Sammy’s father, will similarly campaign for leading attention. Co-star Judd Hirsch received the lion’s share of attention and could become the second-oldest performer ever nominated in supporting actor at 87.
“The Fabelmans” will close the AFI Film Festival and opens in theaters on Nov. 11.
To see the ranked predictions for each individual category, visit Variety’s Oscars Hub.