Actress Andrea Riseborough will keep her surprise best actress Oscar nomination following an internal investigation, the CEO for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday.
Riseborough was nominated earlier this month for the little-seen film “To Leslie,” prompting serious questions about the legitimacy of the movie’s Oscar campaign process.
Academy CEO Bill Kramer said in a statement obtained by CBS News that the organization conducted a “review into the film’s campaign tactics” and “determined the activity in question does not rise to the level that the film’s nomination should be rescinded.”
However, Kramer said that the investigation “did discover social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern. These tactics are being addressed with the responsible parties directly.”
Kramer went on to say that the situation has brought to light that the Academy’s “regulations must be clarified to help create a better framework for respectful, inclusive, and unbiased campaigning.”
He said those changes will come “after this awards cycle.”
The Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled for March 12.
At issue is the way Riseborough’s candidacy was promoted for a movie which has so far grossed a little more than $27,000 at the box office. Though many awards contenders are backed by orchestrated campaigns paid for by their film’s studio, Riseborough rose into the Oscar ranks thanks largely to the grassroots efforts of “To Leslie” director Michael Morris and his wife, actor Mary McCormack.
They urged stars to see the film and either host a screening or praise Riseborough’s performance on social media. And a whole lot of them did.
Almost no one expected Riseborough’s late-breaking campaign to actually land her a nomination. It wasn’t totally out of left field, though. Riseborough’s performance in “To Leslie” had been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. But she wasn’t expected to be in the mix in what was generally considered the hardest category to break into this year. Riseborough was nominated along with Cate Blachett (“Tár”), Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”), Ana de Armas (“Blonde”) and Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”).
“I’m astounded,” Riseborough told Deadline shortly after the nominations were announced. “It was so hard to believe it might ever happen because we really hadn’t been in the running for anything else. Even though we had a lot of support, the idea it might actually happen seemed so far away.”
Two highly regarded performances were left out: Viola Davis in “The Woman King” and Danielle Deadwyler in “Till.” That the category’s most glaring snubs were both Black women has been a point of discussion. “Till” director Chinonye Chukwu, in a post on Instagram, suggested the system had failed. “We live in a world and work in industries that are so aggressively committed to upholding whiteness and perpetuating an unabashed misogyny towards Black women.”
Most every acting nominee participates in some kind of Oscar campaign to help highlight their performance and get voters to watch their film. It’s a game that’s played.
However, there are rules that limit the kinds of events that are held and even how much someone can email promotions to academy members during the voting period. Most campaigns have veteran strategists behind them and a substantial amount of money. Those pushing Riseborough, though, managed to draw attention to her without such backing. Instead, they counted on A-listers to spread the word.
Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amy Adams and Courteney Cox all hosted screenings for the film. “You should be winning everything,” Winslet told her in a virtual Q&A.
Other stars like Edward Norton, Susan Sarandon, Mira Sorvino and Rosie O’Donnell added their praise for her on social media. Those who supported Riseborough saw in the campaign — no billboards on Sunset, no “For Your Consideration” ads, just a deep Rolodex — a groundbreaking way to circumvent traditional Oscar rituals.
In a since-deleted post, actress Christina Ricci wrote of the backlash to Riseborough’s nomination: “So it’s only the films and actors that can afford the campaigns that deserve recognition? Feels elitist and exclusive and frankly very backward to me.”
Oscar nominations have rarely been rescinded but it has happened. In 2014, composer Bruce Broughton, nominated for best original song, was disqualified after it was revealed he had emailed music branch members to call attention to the song’s submission. At the time, Broughton, a former governor for the academy, was a member of the music branch’s executive committee.
For about 15 years, the 41-year-old Riseborough has been a regular presence in film, television and London theater, but she’s sometimes hard to register because of her chameleonic performances. She appeared in Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky” (2008). She made an impression as Riggan’s girlfriend in “Birdman” (2014). She played Stalin’s daughter in “The Death of Stalin” (2017). In “Mandy” (2018), alongside Nicolas Cage, she played his character’s kidnapped girlfriend. Riseborough had several other notable credits in 2022, including David O. Russell’s “Amsterdam” and as Mrs. Wormwood in “Matilda the Musical.” She’s been doing acclaimed work in adventurous independent film for long enough that an Oscar vote for her may have also been partly for her unassuming body of work.