It's official: The Weinstein Co. has switched the Oscar strategy of the top stars in "August: Osage County." Meryl Streep will return to the lead race, according to one of the studio's Oscar campaigners. But here's the shockeroo: Julia Roberts will drop to supporting,
Back in early August, the studio planned to campaign Streep in the supporting race and put Roberts in lead. Then last week, the studio hinted that Streep might go back up to lead based upon reactions to early screenings of a new, final cut of the film. But there was no hint that Roberts might be shuffled too.
Now it turns out that Roberts will compete against "August: Osage County" costar Margo Martindale, who portrays an award-winning role. The star who performed her character on the Broadway stage (Rondi Reed) won Best Featured (or Supporting) Actress in a Play at the 2008 Tony Awards.
The stars who held the original stage roles played by Streep (Deanna Dunagan) and Roberts (Amy Morton) were nominated by Tony voters in the lead race. Dunagan won.
Now Streep has been advanced by Weinstein Co. as the sole "August" actress competing in the lead race at the Oscars for this reason, according to the rep, "We have to look at the Best Actress race this way: Who's strong enough to beat Cate Blanchett? It's Meryl."
But Roberts may not like too much the idea of being dropped to supporting where she must compete against Oprah Winfrey ("The Butler"), who -- let's face it -- probably has that Oscar in the bag already.
While Oscar routinely slaps young studs, refusing to give awards to male matinee stars like Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio, he lustily embraces babes. In fact, the lead actress race looks like a beauty pageant in recent years with champs like Marion Cotillard, Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts. Over the past 20 years, only two stars over the age of 50 have won Best Actress -- Helen Mirren ("The Queen") and Meryl Steep ("The Iron Lady")
Oscar's babe in 2010 was Natalie Portman, who titillated "Black Swan" viewers with a masturbation scene plus frisky girl-on-girl action with co-star Mila Kunis. She bested 52-year-old Annette Bening, who had been an early frontrunner for "The Kids Are All Right." Despite four nominations, Bening remains Oscarless.