Oscars: Feminist Anthems Could Dominate Awards Season After Weinstein Fallout
As scandal engulfs Hollywood following sexual harassment allegations against the movie mogul, female-driven films such as 'Battle of the Sexes' and 'The Post' could be the beneficiaries.
Wherever Harvey Weinstein finds himself on March 4, he won't be at the 90th Academy Awards. But that doesn't mean that this year's awards season will, for the first time in years, be Weinstein-free. The fallout from the scandal and the other cases that have emerged in its wake won't end anytime soon, as the film industry is forced to confront both widespread sexual harassment and the surrounding issue of gender discrimination.
While dozens of movies are waiting to vie for attention, the usual early awards-season buzz has been drowned out by the voices of women (and some men)rising up to protest a status quo that protected Weinstein and others like him. In late October, for example, as George Clooney and Matt Damon made the rounds to promote Suburbicon, the first question they were asked was what exactly they knew about Weinstein's predatory ways.
"I don't know what it means," admits one awards strategist of the full impact the scandal could have. "How does it affect the awards? I don't know how Jimmy Kimmel jokes about any of this." Observes awards consultant Cynthia Swartz, "For the press, covering the Oscar race is usually a fun pastime. But this year, the attention is elsewhere. Maybe it will put the whole thing in perspective."
Ironically, before the scandal broke, Weinstein's influence at the Oscars, where he'd once been a dominant player, was already on the wane. Now, the toxic Weinstein Co. name is being stripped from Taylor Sheridan's contender Wind River, which is built around an investigation into sexual abuse and murder. And the Benedict Cumberbatch-Michael Shannon starrer The Current War, the Alfonso Gomez-Rejon-directed period drama about the rivalry between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, which had been slated for Nov. 24 release, has been pulled from 2017, with Cumberbatch calling Weinstein's actions "utterly disgusting." Neither Wind River nor Current War had been perceived as awards frontrunners — which means the Weinstein fallout could damage other companies' pictures more than his own. Already, the burgeoning harassment scandals have caught some titles in their whirlpool.
On Oct. 15, Amazon Studios canceled the red carpet at the New York Film Festival's premiere of Woody Allen's Wonder Wheel after Roy Price, who resigned as Amazon Studios head on Oct. 17, was accused of harassment. Allen himself got plenty of blowback when he appeared to express sympathy for Weinstein, which he quickly walked back. And in light of the allegation that Kevin Spacey once forced himself upon a 14-year-old actor, Ridley Scott's new drama, All the Money in the World, in which Spacey plays John Paul Getty, faces huge marketing hurdles as its Dec. 22 release approaches — at the very least, Spacey likely will drop out of the promo tour, leaving co-stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams facing awkward questions.
Other pictures, though, could benefit, as the Academy — in response to the rising voices of women both within and outside its ranks challenging long-standing male biases — looks at such films as Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, in which Frances McDormand plays an aggrieved mother forcing local authorities to solve the murder of her daughter, as well as Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' Battle of the Sexes, with Emma Stone playing feminist icon Billie Jean King.
On the directing front, Angelina Jolie (First They Killed My Father), Dee Rees (Mudbound), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) and Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) should have a new spotlight shone on them and their pictures. "Can you believe only four women have been nominated for best director?" says one Academy member. "This year I'd like to see two."
But the movie that could just benefit the most from the present moment is one that has yet to be completed: Steven Spielberg's The Post, with Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham in an account of how she emerged from behind the shadow of her dead husband to exert her own authority. Spielberg's team already is preparing a marketing push that will highlight not only the feminist subject but also the film's heavy female presence behind the scenes, including co-screenwriter Liz Hannah and producers Kristie Macosko Krieger and Amy Pascal.
It's not that the Academy will meet in some secret conclave to decide on payback for Weinstein and his sins. It's that old assumptions, which automatically favored the guys, finally may be falling by the wayside.
This story first appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.