Dear Michael Fassbender: Not campaigning cost you an Oscar

Despite receiving rave reviews for “12 Years a Slave,” Michael Fassbender decided early on that he wouldn’t participate in an Oscar campaign. And while he reaped a Supporting Actor bid, he skipped the academy’s official nominees luncheon on Monday. So, is it any surprise that he is ranked far behind frontrunner Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club“) in this race?

Fassbender’s skittishness can be traced back to being snubbed by the academy in 2011 for a trio of acclaimed performances in “Jane Eyre,” “A Dangerous Method,” and “Shame.” That latter film, his second with “12 Years” helmer Steve McQueen, netted him Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. Reflecting on his continuous campaigning then, he told GQ last fall: “I won’t put myself through that kind of situation again … It’s just a grind. And I’m not a politician. I’m an actor.”

While “12 Years a Slaveleads our racetrack odds for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyongo) and Best Adapted Screenplay, Fassbender is a longshot at best. Would campaigning have made the difference?

Working the awards circuit certainly paid off for the likes of Octavia Spencer (“The Help“) and Kate Winslet (“The Reader”). Melissa Leo‘s lobbying for “The Fighter” was infamous — she bought her own trade ads asking voters to “Consider …,” which caused such a controversy that there was concern she’d be the rare actor brought down by a campaign — but she held on to win Best Supporting Actress anyway.

Then again, Katharine Hepburn won a record four Best Actress awards but skipped all 12 Oscars at which she contended, only showing up once, in 1973, to fete her friend Lawrence Weingarten who was receiving the Irving Thalberg award. 

RELATEDWatch Michael Fassbender embrace pure evil in ’12 Years a Slave’

Mo’Nique famously shunned the campaign trail when “Precious” was a major contender in 2009, but she won Best Supporting Actress anyway.  In her acceptance speech said, “I would like to thank the academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics.”

Would Fassebender be in front had he been shaking hands and going to parties all season? Leto’s performance as a transgender woman in “Dallas Buyers Club” is the kind of radical physical transformation voters love. Add in the role’s social and historical importance and you have a winning combination. Indeed, he has taken home every major precursor prize: New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago critics, the Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice and SAG awards. He has reached a Mo’Nique level of inevitability.

But if there’s one chink in Leto’s armor, it’s BAFTA where’s “Dallas Buyers Club” was snubbed completely. Fassbender is the clear frontrunner to win at BAFTA with overwhelming odds of 1/4. Could he pull off an Oscar upset?

The last person to win the Supporting Actor Oscar without at least a BAFTA bid was Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”) in 2004. And Oscar does like its villains, especially in the supporting categories: Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”; Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men”; and, again, Mo’Nique.

If Fassbender doesn’t win, we’ll never know f campaigning could have tipped the scale in his favor. His movie is the frontrunner to win Best Picture and he’s missing the party. That’s a real “Shame.”

Tyler The Awesome Guy posed this question about campaigning in our forums. Read some of our posters thoughts, then make your predictions and leave your comments below.

ETPhoneHome: As much as I like Fassbender (which is a lot), and admire the performance he gave, I don’t think he would have won either way. I still would rank him higher than Leto, even though I think Leto is more than deserving himself.

Eddy Q: If it weren’t for Leto, I think Fassbender would’ve been the frontrunner whether he campaigned or not … perhaps due to the repugnance of Fassbender’s character in “12 Years,” he’d have only won without an obvious alternative, which has been provided by Leto.

Denis: Didn’t like his performance at all, should not even have been nominated, Gyllenhaal, Gosling, Renner, or Gandolfini should’ve taken his spot.

Scottferguson: If Leto weren’t the top contender, [Barkhad Abdi] would have been the go-to choice. I suspect Fassbender is never going to win an Oscar. Too polarizing, too bombastic, totally lacking in subtlety. He’ll win a Tony first.

pacinofan: Michael Fassbender was my top choice for best supporting actor for 2013 but I still do not think he would be doing any better in the Oscar race if he had campaigned more. Jared Leto got a big head start because he won major prizes at the top critics’ awards. I expected Fassbender would win something from the top four awards but that did not happen.

25 thoughts on “Dear Michael Fassbender: Not campaigning cost you an Oscar

  1. When I first saw 12 Years a Slave, I said that Fassbender was the front runner to win it hands down… but then he released a statement saying that he will not campaign, and from that point I gave the major edge to Leto. Both were harrowing performances, but if Michael would have campaigned, it would have been a nailbiter (IMO)…. Leto would have been the victor… nothing for Michael to worry about though, he will win one day

  2. This article points up what is wrong with the Oscar race. Fassbender’s performance should win him the award, whether he shakes hands or not. And many of the events, held in California, certainly allow those who live and work there to participate, in a way that’s simply not possible for someone like Fassbender, currently filming Macbeth in England. It’s too bad that glad-handing takes the place of a serious evaluation of performances. Fassbender deserves the Oscar; too bad he’s not going to get it.

  3. And this is precisely the flaw in the academy awards. Kudos to him for sticking to his guns and keeping it about the acting/performance rather than politics. The oscar voting body is not incredibly varied in terms of demographics and they can, as the past has shown, be swayed by heavy campaigning regardless of what was the “best” in the field. (And in many past oscar articles, some voters even admit to not watching everything. Seriously?!) Shaking hands and networking shouldnt be what net you awards. Hats of to you Mr Fassbender, cant wait for Macbeth.

  4. Thank goodness others agree with me that this campaigning thing is ridiculous and has gotten way out of hand. It’s an Oscar, a popularity contest in the high school that is Hollywood. Can’t they save the campaigning for real issues?

  5. You pundits are idiots!!!!! Fassbender is a real actor. Not into politics. ALSO HE HAS NO SHOT. The nomination was because he is a brilliant actor. But there is no way the SLAVE In the film, plus the black director lose and they give the Oscar to the white evil slave owner.

    Imagine how that would play out. Nyongo is not a lock. Potentially in a year with the MOST prominent year for black filmmakers and films, we could potentially have no wins for them.

    I understand while it may not be flat out racism, it does speak to the virtual impossible task for film makers of color to win Oscars.

  6. Michael Fassbender is the best actor alive today. His masculinity, his maleness is what makes him a complete actor. His performance in Shame is the greatest on-screen performances I’ve ever seen. He wasn’t only acting in it; he pulled me into his portrayal of a sexual addict, he made me a part of himself. Shame remains my all time favorite movie along with American Psycho. I would go as far as to say that Michael Fassbender in beyond all these awards, including Oscars. He’s in a league of his own. In fact, Michael Fassbender has more talent in his pinky toe than many other actors have in their entire bodies. And I had admitted that there was no such thing as justice in this world, when Michael Fassbender was snubbed by the Academy for his Shame act. Maybe, Academy voters fantasized seeing Michael Fassbender’s naked body but didn’t vote for him. That makes Oscars’ credibility questionable. And that’s what I call real “SHAME.”

  7. Good for Fassbender ! He’s going to win the BAFTA, and his career will effortlessly/eventually be rewarded with an Oscar. Jared Leto is and has been a lock, no competition in supporting actor this year.

  8. Jared Leto didn’t really campaign either, it really should be bradley cooper who wins this — not only is he gracious, but he should have won last year for silver linings playbook.

  9. Fassbender has clearly stated that this movie is about bringing slavery into light again and has suggested bringing it into curriculum at schools, I gather by these comments that it’s about the movie for him and not the race, I think everyone knows he’s an excellent actor. Jared Leto was excellent in this film and to me it’s the whole Sandra Bullock thing, you would never expect it.

  10. nah, Fassbender campaigning wouldn’t have made any difference Leto is the frontrunner because he gave the best performance of the year with a laaaaarge margin over the others- Fassy was the frontrunner at first just because people tought that Leto -being a no one for a lot of them- could never beat a popular actor such as Michael.

  11. Fassbender is not doing pre oscar campaign ………….. but on the other hand is going to prostitutes (and maybe you do not see around, because he has made ​​her pregnant prostitute Romanian)

  12. I think Leto would have won anyway, even though I think Fassbender is more deserving.

    I just don’t understand the point, or mainly title, of this article. He’s stated that he doesn’t care much about this, and he’s busy filming during most of this. It’s not as if he doesn’t know.

  13. “Abdi could win the BAFTA. Don’t really see Fassbender’s role being awardsworthy seeing as it would be celebrating a violent racist.”

    Are you saying that he’s a violent racist, or his character was? I don’t see anything proving he is, and just because he wins an acting award doesn’t mean they’re celebrating the character. Wow, you people are stupid.

  14. This is a fair article but I feel I must chime in. You left out that since late October, Michael Fassbender was in New Zealand working on the Slow West film. He had a short break in the New Year to do some campaigning, and then in late January, he started filming in the UK on MacBeth. He’ll be in attendance at BAFTA this weekend, and most likely for the Oscar ceremony. The man is a busy actor and he’s done what time will allow him to do to campaign for 12 Years a Slave. Like M’Nonique said, campaigning is very political and if Michael is going to win without participating in the politics, he’ll win, period. While I’m hopeful Fassbender could win the Oscar, his performance is worthy of it, the ‘politics’ of the affair is that he’s not campaigning and he plays an unsympathetic character, up against a pretty and lovable, sympathetic character. Fassbender is deserving of an Oscar this year, and frankly, he should have had one for either Hunger or Shame, but, ta dah – politics were at play those years too. The guy just can’t get a break.

  15. I love Jared Leto but the performance for me wasn’t all it was cracked up to be it was good but a little overhyped for what it was and Fassbender should win nobody even comes close in my opinion and ‘working the circuit’ shouldn’t matter, the performance should matter but typically as everything is overdone these days it does so he probably won’t win

  16. “Are you saying that he’s a violent racist, or his character was? I don’t see anything proving he is, and just because he wins an acting award doesn’t mean they’re celebrating the character. Wow, you people are stupid.”

    Hilarious. You replying to comment that you clearly dont understand yet you have the audacity to call someone else stupid. Right, unlikeable characters win ALL the time! That’s why Phoenix won last year, right! Or Jessie Eisenberg! And they get nominated ALL the time! Just ask DiCaprio!

  17. Was Dallas Buyers Club eligible for BAFTAs this year? I believe it opened in the U.K. in February though perhaps it was screened for voters beforehand. If it wasn’t eligible that would undermine the thesis that Leto’s lack of a BAFTA nod weakens his case for Oscar.

  18. “Right, unlikeable characters win ALL the time! That’s why Phoenix won last year, right! Or Jessie Eisenberg! And they get nominated ALL the time! Just ask DiCaprio!”

    There’s a difference between not being awardsworthy and not being nominated. People have different opinions than you, wow! how amazing.

  19. @ Josephine I wasn’t aware you had an open invitation into his life. @ mj that’s why its called “method acting” get a clue.

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