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No punitive action will be taken by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences against best actress Oscar nominee Andrea Riseborough or those who lobbied for her to receive recognition for her portrayal of a spiraling alcoholic in To Leslie, the organization announced Tuesday.
“The Academy has determined the activity in question does not rise to the level that the film’s nomination should be rescinded,” Academy CEO Bill Kramer said in a statement. He later added, “However, we did discover social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern. These tactics are being addressed with the responsible parties directly.”
The decision came after the Academy’s 54-person board of governors convened earlier in the day for its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, with an internal review of the Riseborough campaign high on the agenda. The review was mounted in response to widespread conversation and debate about the unconventional, grassroots effort that fueled Riseborough’s surprise nom, which evoked gasps at last Tuesday’s nominations announcement.
Few Academy members except those who are part of its actors branch had ever even heard of the film for which the 41-year-old Brit was singled out. After premiering at last year’s SXSW film festival, To Leslie garnered raves for its leading lady but sold to a U.S. distributor, Momentum Pictures, that lacked the resources to give it much of a theatrical release (it grossed just $27,322 prior to Riseborough’s nomination) or awards push.
But, come nominations morning, that didn’t matter, because the Academy’s actors branch alone determines the acting Oscar nominees, and they had been lobbied hard by Riseborough champions — including To Leslie’s director, Michael Morris; Morris’ wife, the actress Mary McCormack; Riseborough’s manager and publicists; and a number of their famous friends and acquaintances who are actors — to watch and consider publicly endorsing the film.
Among those who did indeed praise Riseborough’s work on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram were Susan Sarandon, Helen Hunt, Zooey Deschanel, Mira Sorvino, Constance Zimmer, Rosie O’Donnell, Alan Cumming and Riseborough’s Birdman co-star Edward Norton. (Norton tweeted that Riseborough’s performance “just knocked me sideways.”) And Charlize Theron, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Minnie Driver, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amy Adams and Kate Winslet all hosted events — some in-person, others virtual — for the actress. (Winslet, at her gathering, declared, “I think this is the greatest female performance onscreen I have ever seen in my life.”)
Many industry observers have expressed admiration and awe that so many big names went to bat — and came through — for Riseborough. Others, however, have criticized the campaign, noting that not every Oscar hopeful has access to the kind of Rolodex that Riseborough’s champions do, and also have objected to a since-deleted Instagram post by the actress Frances Fisher that implied that people should vote for Riseborough because their votes were not needed for four other “safe” best actress Oscar hopefuls, two of whom — Till’s Danielle Deadwyler and The Woman King’s Viola Davis — did not ultimately wind up with nominations.
Kramer, in his statement, indicated that Academy regulations pertaining to social media activity will be tightened in the future: “Given this review, it is apparent that components of the regulations must be clarified to help create a better framework for respectful, inclusive, and unbiased campaigning. These changes will be made after this awards cycle and will be shared with our membership.”
Kramer’s full statement appears below.
Based on concerns that surfaced last week around the TO LESLIE awards campaign, the Academy began a review into the film’s campaigning tactics. The Academy has determined the activity in question does not rise to the level that the film’s nomination should be rescinded. However, we did discover social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern. These tactics are being addressed with the responsible parties directly.
The purpose of the Academy’s campaign regulations is to ensure a fair and ethical awards process—these are core values of the Academy. Given this review, it is apparent that components of the regulations must be clarified to help create a better framework for respectful, inclusive, and unbiased campaigning. These changes will be made after this awards cycle and will be shared with our membership. The Academy strives to create an environment where votes are based solely on the artistic and technical merits of the eligible films and achievements.
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