Andrea Riseborough's shock Oscar nomination has reportedly sparked Academy scrutiny
To Leslie may be a small film with a giant problem.
The Academy is looking into whether a successful effort to get actress Andrea Riseborough an Oscar nomination for her performance in the little-seen indie movie To Leslie violated its rules on lobbying, Puck reports.
Riseborough earned a surprise Best Actress nod at the Academy Awards after a wave of celebrities came out of the woodwork to praise her performance just before voting opened, in some cases with identical posts about the "small film with a giant heart." The nomination shocked pundits, as To Leslie had virtually no buzz or presence in the Oscar race until the last minute. Meanwhile, actresses who were expected to receive nods, most notably Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler, were snubbed.
According to The Los Angeles Times, To Leslie director Michael Morris and his wife, actor Mary McCormack, "contacted nearly every one" of their famous friends asking them to watch the movie and spread the word, hence the avalanche of social media posts that appeared seemingly out of nowhere. According to Puck, McCormack even sent an email that said, "If you're willing to post every day between now and Jan 17th, that would be amazing!" Jan. 17 was the last day of nomination voting.
But the Academy has a rule on lobbying that states "contacting Academy members directly and in a manner outside of the scope of these rules to promote a film or achievement for Academy Award consideration is expressly forbidden." So Puck reports the Academy is looking at whether the Riseborough campaign violated this rule with this "aggressive lobbying."
If it did, there's precedent for Riseborough's nomination to be rescinded. In 2014, former Academy governor Bruce Broughton received a nomination for Best Original Song, which the Academy revoked after he "emailed [some of the other 239] members of the branch to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period," per The Hollywood Reporter. Broughton was not replaced in the category, which then simply had four nominees.
For her part, Riseborough told Deadline after her nomination was announced, "I'm not entirely sure how the f--k this happened."
Update 4:50 p.m.: Without naming Riseborough, the Academy confirmed in a statement on Friday afternoon that "we are conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year's nominees" to "ensure that no guidelines were violated" and "inform us whether changes to the guidelines may be needed in a new era of social media and digital communication."