Is it possible to have a movie without a single lead actor or actress?
Apparently it is. In Roman Polanski's screen version of the "Carnage," Jodie Foster is supporting Christoph Waltz, who is supporting Kate Winslet, who is supporting John C. Reilly, who is supporting Jodie Foster.
Or something like that.
Sony Pictures Classics has decided that all four actors, who comprise the entire cast of the film, belong in the supporting categories in this year's Oscar race, and they are suggesting as much on their awards website. (Kris Tapley was the first to notice.)
In doing so, they're taking a cue from the television series "Modern Family," which has campaigned for its entire cast in the supporting rather than lead categories at the Emmys. The move worked: in 2010 five of the six main actors were nominated, and in 2011 all six won nods, four in the Supporting Actor category and two in Supporting Actress.
And they won in both categories, too, with Ty Burell and Julie Bowen taking home statuettes.
"Carnage" is unlikely to have that kind of record — and to be fair, the categories in which Foster, Reilly, Waltz and Winslet belong are not really up to SPC.
Oscar acting ballots specifically advise voters to decide for themselves whether a performance belongs in lead or supporting, regardless of the category suggested in campaign materials.
Still, voters usually go along with the studios; the most recent case in which they didn't was when Winslet won Best Actress for "The Reader," a film for which she'd been campaigned as a Supporting Actress candidate.
The tricky case of "Carnage" is one of several instances this year in which actors could theoretically fit into either lead or supporting category. SPC has another this year with the David Cronenberg film "A Dangerous Method," in which Michael Fassbender plays Carl Jung and Viggo Mortensen is Sigmund Freud.
But the film is really about Fassbender and his student Sabina Spielrein, played by Keira Knightley — so even though her wild performance might have a better chance of attracting attention in the supporting category, SPC is pushing her as Best Actress. (Mortensen is relegated to Supporting Actor, a category in which he belongs.)
DreamWorks, meanwhile, is splitting its two most formidable acting contenders for "The Help" into two different categories: they're suggesting Viola Davis for Best Actress (along with Emma Stone) and Octavia Spencer for Supporting Actress (in addition to Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney and Sissy Spacey).
Although some had urged DreamWorks to push for Davis in the Supporting Actress category under the theory that Stone is the true lead, Davis now appears to be among the favorites in the Best Actress category, while Spencer is a formidable contender in supporting.
Last year, Sony Classics campaigned strenuously for Lesley Manville in the Best Actress category for "Another Year," a decision that led to major debate in the blogosphere and did not result in a nomination.