The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has launched an investigation into this year’s Oscar campaign procedures after Andrea Riseborough scored a surprise nod for “To Leslie” on Tuesday.
Riseborough’s Best Lead Actress nomination resulted from a last-minute grassroots campaign driven by A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow, Edward Norton, and Kate Winslet signal boosting the performance on social media. Critics have noted that Riseborough was able to secure a nomination without studio backing while frontrunner actresses of color, such as Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”) and Viola Davis (“The Woman King”) were shut out.
“We are conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year’s nominees, to ensure that no guidelines were violated, and to inform us whether changes to the guidelines may be needed in a new era of social media and digital communication,” the Academy said in a statement shared with TheWrap.
Though it did not name Riseborough, the Academy stated its support for “genuine grassroots campaigns for outstanding performances” while emphasizing its commitment to a “fair,” “ethical,” and “inclusive” awards process.
Directed by Michael Morris in his feature debut, “To Leslie” stars Riseborough as a Texas mother who spirals after squandering a lottery win. Following its premiere at SXSW last March, it made a modest $27,000 from its weeklong theatrical run at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center in Santa Monica before releasing on VOD.
Starting in December and picking up steam in early January—just before the nomination period of Jan. 12 to Jan. 17—stars began to voice their support for Riseborough. Actresses Betty Buckley, Mary McCormack and Frances Fischer posted multiple times about the film. Kate Winslet drew attention for calling her performance “the greatest female performance on screen I have ever seen in my life” during a virtual Q&A.
“Seems to be that Viola, Michelle, Danielle & Cate are a lock for their outstanding work,” Fisher wrote in a Jan. 14 Instagram post. “Watch TO LESLIE on the Academy Screening Room app and join the groundswell of support to honor Andrea’s fine work.”
Comedian Marc Maron went on the offensive, slamming the film’s distributor for failing to promote the film.
“Hey, @Momentum_Pics!” he tweeted. “Awesome job hobbling ‘To Leslie’ because of gross incompetence! Like it’s not hard enough to get it out there. Are you in the movie killing business? Odd approach.”
“To Leslie” will return to approximately six theaters in North America this weekend. A limited U.K. release is expected to take place next week.
Read the full statement below:
It is the Academy’s goal to ensure that the Awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner, and we are committed to ensuring an inclusive awards process.
We are conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year’s nominees, to ensure that no guidelines were violated, and to inform us whether changes to the guidelines may be needed in a new era of social media and digital communication.
We have confidence in the integrity of our nomination and voting procedures, and support genuine grassroots campaigns for outstanding performances.