Oscars: Entire 'Spotlight' Cast to Compete in Supporting Acting Races (Exclusive)

Spotlight - H 2015
Courtesy of Open Road

The entire cast of current Oscar frontrunner Spotlight  — an impressive group that includes Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, John Slattery and Brian d'Arcy James — will be promoted for Oscar consideration in the supporting acting categories, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

It is not all that surprising that distributor Open Road, in consultation with the talent's personal representatives, has arrived at that strategy. For one thing, the film has no true lead actor supported by others — screen time is evenly divided among much of the ensemble. Additionally, Open Road chief Tom Ortenberg pioneered this approach, back when he was at Lionsgate, with 2005's Crash. (The film ultimately landed a single supporting acting nom, for Matt Dillon, en route to its best picture win.) It has since been employed by other top contenders such as 2006's Little Miss Sunshine (Alan Arkin and Abigail Breslin landed noms and Arkin a win) and Babel (noms went to Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi).

While McAdams is the sole supporting actress prospect for Spotlight (she's also eligible in the category for her strong work in Southpaw), Spotlight boasts a ton of viable supporting actor candidates. They can take heart in the fact that some films have landed as many as three noms in a single supporting Oscar category in years past: 1954's On the Waterfront, 1972's The Godfather and 1974's The Godfather, Part II (actors) as well as 1963's Tom Jones (actresses).

On the other hand, the most recent film to land more than one best supporting actor nom was 1991's Bugsy — it scored two — while many other films with large and worthy ensembles have been entirely shut out of acting noms because of confusion/disagreement over their talent's categorizations and/or vote-splitting. For instance, 1932's Grand Hotel, which boasted one of the most star-studded casts in movie history and went on to win the best picture Oscar, failed to land a single acting nom. And the films of Robert Altman, almost all of which feature big ensembles, produced more than one acting nom on only two occasions: when 1975's Nashville and 2001's Gosford Park each landed two supporting actress noms (but ultimately zero wins).

Of course, there's no foolproof way to land a nom: All the President's Men, the classic 1976 movie to which Spotlight has frequently been likened, pushed both Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in the lead actor category and neither was nominated — but it landed a supporting actress nom for Jane Alexander, for just a few minutes of screen time, and a supporting actor win for Jason Robards.

Spotlight isn't the only 2015 Oscar hopeful that's been the subject of categorization deliberations this year. The Weinstein Co. has announced its intention to promote Carol's Cate Blanchett as a lead actress (even though she'll be competing against her other lead performance in Truth) and Rooney Mara as a supporting actress (even though she won Cannes' best actress prize and has more screen time than Blanchett). Focus Features is still weighing whether to push The Danish Girl's Alicia Vikander as a lead actress (as the company did last year with The Theory of Everything's Felicity Jones) or a supporting actress (which would not be without precedent and would provide a surer path to a nom and an easier path to a win). And A24 has a decision to make about 8-year-old Room phenom Jacob Tremblay — is he supporting Brie Larson or a co-lead? (Child actors almost never nab lead noms.)

The latest entry into the race is The Big Short, which Paramount revealed will close the AFI Fest on Nov. 12 before opening theatrically on Dec. 11. The film has a giant cast filled with stars, but THR has learned that only Steve Carell will be pushed as a lead actor, while Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Melissa Leo, Marisa Tomei, Finn Wittrock and Max Greenfield, among others, will vie for supporting slots.