Last week, Supporting Actress nominee Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”) took out her own trade ads touting her more glamorous side. The character actress, who is the frontrunner at the Oscars, wanted to show the industry her versatility. Instead, she set off an on-going debate about the propriety of such self-promotion.
Pete Hammond (Deadline) spoke to her last Thursday, as the campaign ran timed to coincide with ballots arriving for Oscar voters. Leo told Pete that, frustrated after failing to land talk show gigs and magazine covers, “I took matters into my own hands. I knew what I was doing and told my representation how earnest I was about this idea. I had never heard of any actor taking out an ad as themselves and I wanted to give it a shot.”
Tim Appelo (THR) followed up with Leo at Monday’s Academy Awards nominee luncheon. She told him, “The Oscars — it’s this illustrious group, a jury of my peers, I find out. It’s also a marketing [thing]. It’s show business. I didn’t ask that this opportunity for more come to me. I’ve just done what I’ve done. I think I’m finding out why I watch those competitive cooking shows, ’cause people aren’t on about who they are or how they’re dressed. It’s about what they’re doing.”
Among the Oscar pundits, Sasha Stone (Awards Daily) says, “A 50 year old fighting to continue to get access to interesting roles? She’s an embarrassment. I’m not saying she deserves to win or not; what I am saying is that she doesn’t deserve to NOT get it because of this.”
For Jeff Wells (Hollywood-Elsewhere), “Ads are always judged in terms of style, class and tone, and Leo’s now-disappeared ads, I feel, got it right. They were fine. She looked great. No harm done. We’ve all been so trained to squint our eyes and arch our backs whenever an individual takes out an ad of any kind. Only corporations and major companies can do this!”
Scott Feinberg penned the post “In Defense of my friend, Melissa Leo” which he ended thus: “I have continued to follow her closely from afar, and I have been overjoyed to see her finally receiving long overdue recognition for her work. She’s more than just another bold-faced name; she’s a real person, and I hope that people will give her a break and not punish her for getting excited about the prospect of holding an Oscar, as any of the rest of us real people would, too. We need more people like Melissa Leo in this industry — and, frankly, in this world — not fewer.”
However, Dixon Gaines (Movieline) was unimpressed: “It’s got the whiff of desperation all over it. And that desperation, again, is peculiar because Leo practically had the Oscar in the bag — Vegas has her as the odds-on favorite to win — so why jeopardize things with a tone-deaf “I am awesome!” ad? Separate from the campaigns, Oscar nominees themselves usually comport themselves with a modicum of class and restraint, not show up on Academy voters’ doorstep, desperately busking for tips.”