The Academy is looking into the campaigns of the nominees for this year’s Oscars after scrutiny arose following Andrea Riseborough’s surprise nomination for “To Leslie.”
After the actor’s “grassroots” campaign enlisted a number of celebrities to help spread the word about the small indie, Oscar voters and viewers are left wondering whether Riseborough broke any rules or is just smartly playing the awards game.
Rumors have swirled regarding aggressive campaign tactics, focusing on social media posts from members of the Actors Branch. The Board of Governors is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, where they’re expected to discuss “To Leslie.”
Current AMPAS voters from various branches agreed to speak with Variety anonymously to discuss what they know about the controversy, and whether they think the Academy should rescind Riseborough’s nomination.
Most predict she’ll keep her nomination, pointing to practices that have been allowed for studios and strategists to exploit to get their nominees through.
It’s worth noting that only the 1,302 eligible members of the Actors Branch can vote for acting nominations. Every eligible Academy member votes in all 23 categories for the winners.
Read answers from anonymous Oscar voters below:
“I don’t know much about it, outside what’s been covered in the news. I know plenty who have bent and broken the ‘rules’ for years, and the Academy has let it slide. No one tells you what the rules are when you become a member. You depend on the studios and people running the campaign to know those things. It sounds to me that Andrea’s team accomplished something that angered many people because we know how much money goes into trying to get an Oscar. Her team got her there without 30 billboards on Sunset. Without an installation on Hollywood Blvd. So, no, they shouldn’t take her nomination away. If that happens, a lot more will have to be taken away.”
– Member of the Documentary Branch
“Do you remember that saying when you were a kid? ‘Snitches get stitches.’ Do you know how many movies and studios break the rules? And I’m talking about blatantly emailing members in a chain and saying, ‘OK, Team INSERT NAME HERE, it’s voting day, and you know what to do?’ No one is going to snitch. Why would they? [Riseborough’s] team didn’t do anything more than what I see yearly. They probably did it closer to the rules than not… she’ll be fine.”
– Member of the Marketing and Public Relations Branch
“I watched her performance in ‘To Leslie’ and thought she was extraordinary. What a beautiful, wonderful movie, and not something you see a lot in the theaters. I was so moved by it. I received an invitation to see the film, and I went. Everyone I talked to felt the same way I did. I don’t know if she broke any rules. Do you know what I honestly think? I think this is a quest to find out why a woman from a movie no one had heard about was able to receive a nomination purely on the performance. Do you know how many of my colleagues are nominated because they’re in so and so’s movies? A lot. If she were disqualified from the awards, it would be a decimation of the Actors’ choice because it’s our choice to nominate someone.”
– Member of the Actors Branch
“I have a feeling Andrea Riseborough will have her nomination rescinded because the Academy has to stop what’s been going on for a long time. They say we’re supposed to pick the best movies, but I don’t think that’s happening. I don’t often vote when choosing nominees because I don’t see enough. But when it’s time to pick winners, I watch everything, but I find myself saying, ‘This got nominated? How?’ It’s because streamers and journalists tell us what we have to choose, and people listen. I didn’t hear about the movie [‘To Leslie’] until this nonsense. It’s terrible she’s going to be the example, but hopefully, this will wake people up to what’s been happening for a long time.”
– Member of Writers Branch
“No. Nothing will happen. The Academy can’t do that. If they let Will Smith keep his Oscar, taking [her nomination] away would be unimaginably stupid on their part. Why would you ruin someone’s career like that? And I don’t know if she’s good or not. I haven’t seen the movie, but I will soon.”
– Member of Writers Branch
“Can you imagine if Viola [Davis] was being accused of what her [Andrea Riseborough] team is being accused of? Viola wouldn’t have gotten to the point of getting nominated. She would have already been disqualified and probably kicked out of the Academy. There’s always one set of rules for one group and one set for another. Or should I say, one set for Black people? We see this all the time, and the Academy knows it. Yet, they chose not to do anything about it… so do I think she’ll be kicked out? Hell no! Because ‘White is Always Right.’ She’ll probably even win because the system is made for people like her to thrive. To succeed. To flourish. For Black people, there is no system. We aren’t flourishing. But I’ll wait to see what they’ll do.”
– Member requested their branch affiliation not be identified
“Was her campaign aggressive? Absolutely. She wanted it, but they all do. Meryl [Streep] does, and Cate [Blanchett] does. Listen… I don’t know about not spending that much money on it. There’s always money. No one does things for free, but we play the game. Some win. Some lose. She won, but the Academy won’t punish her. They can’t, or they have to punish all of us. I don’t have an opinion if she ‘should’ get kicked out or not. I don’t know enough about it. Probably not.”
– Member of the Producers Branch