No laughing matter: Emma Stone (‘La La Land’) has to overcome BAFTA bias against comedy actresses

Emma Stone has been on an awards roll as of late for her singing and dancing performance as struggling actress Mia in the Oscar Best Picture frontrunner La La Land.” So far Stone has picked up a Golden Globe for Best Film Comedy/Musical Actress and a SAG Award for Best Actress. Her one stumble was at the Critics’ Choice Awards when she lost Best Actress to Natalie Portman (“Jackie”).

But before Stone can start planning her Oscar acceptance speech there is one more critical precursor she needs to be concerned with: the BAFTA Awards. Since the Screen Actors Guild first began handing out awards in 1995 six actresses who competed at the Golden Globes for Best Comedy/Musical Actress have gone on to win the prize bestowed by their SAG peers. But then at the BAFTAs only one was able to win, while another one of those was absent entirely and the other four lost. But looking on the bright side for Stone, five of those six women still won Oscars no matter what the Brits decided.

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The best-case scenario for Stone is that she follows the same easy path that Reese Witherspoon (“Walk the Line”) followed in 2005. For her portrayal of June Carter, Witherspoon earned a clean sweep of Best Actress trophies: Golden Globe Comedy/Musical, SAG Award, BAFTA and Oscar. It was Witherspoon’s year and no one was able to stop the well-liked starlet. But it should be noted that while Witherspoon won the Globe for comedies and musicals, “Walk the Line” was a dramatic biopic, unlike the more lighthearted romantic comedy of “La La Land,” and as you’ll see below the British academy tends to prefer dramatic women.

Stone probably should keep in mind what happened in 2002 to the last Oscar Best Actress nominee from a musical, Renee Zellweger (“Chicago”). She won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy/Musical Actress. An even bigger test was the SAG Awards where she had to compete with the Golden Globe Drama Actress winner Nicole Kidman (“The Hours”), but Zellweger was able to squeak out the victory there too. However, at the BAFTAs Kidman won. Then “by a nose” was how Denzel Washington announced Kidman’s ultimate victory at the Oscars for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in one of the closest Best Actress races in recent years.

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Frances McDormand (“Fargo,” 1996) lost the Golden Globe for Best Comedy/Musical Actress to Madonna (“Evita”), but regrouped winning the SAG Award. McDormand’s performance as a pregnant scene-stealing cop then took home the Oscar, but the BAFTAs, which were held after the Oscars that year, went to the Golden Globe Drama Actress winner Brenda Blethyn (“Secrets and Lies”).

The next year Helen Hunt (“As Good as it Gets,” 1997) won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy/Musical Actress and the SAG Award. She too was able to prevail at the Oscars, but then Hunt did not compete at the subsequent BAFTAs, which went to Golden Globe Drama Actress winner Judi Dench (“Mrs. Brown”).

Gwyneth Paltrow (“Shakespeare In Love,” 1998) followed the same path, winning Golden Globe for Best Comedy/Musical Actress, then the SAG Award, then Oscar. But once again, when the BAFTAs followed Paltrow lost to the Golden Globe Drama Actress winner Cate Blanchett (“Elizabeth”).

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Fourteen years later Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook,” 2012) won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy/Musical Actress and the SAG Award. The BAFTAs were held before the Oscars that year, and Lawrence was upset by Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”). But at the Oscars they would face off again with Lawrence winning.

According to Gold Derby’s exclusive odds, Stone is currently expected to win with odds of 8/13. Right on her heels however is Portman in second place with odds of 9/4. In fourth place is Meryl Streep (“Florence Foster Jenkins”), the only other Oscar nominee in the category, with odds of 66/1.

The good news for Stone is her main competition is also American unlike the past four women who’ve lost at the BAFTAs. The bad news is, both are past BAFTA winners: Portman for “Black Swan” (2010) and Streep for “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (1981) and “The Iron Lady” (2011). If that was not enough, like the aforementioned BAFTA winners Dench, Blanchett and Kidman both Streep and Portman play real-life people, which the British academy appears to prefer over those actresses who make us laugh or sing and dance. But even if Stone, should lose there’s still a fair chance that like McDormand, Paltrow, and Lawrence she will also still prevail at the Oscars.

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