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.

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