Will category confusion foil Oscar hopes for Berenice Bejo of ‘The Artist’?

Among the most shocking mentions on the BAFTA longlist was Berenice Bejo for “The Artist” — in the lead actress category. The Weinstein Company has effectively campaigned Bejo in the supporting field, earning her nods from the Screen Actors Guild, Broadcast Film Critics Assn. and Golden Globes. But at BAFTA, Bejo was among the top five vote-getters for Best Actress.


Category confusion like this can be detrimental to an Oscar campaign. Just last year Lesley Manville of “Another Year” was an early contender for the Best Actress Oscar. Indeed, she won the National Board of Review prize in that category. Then she was nominated by BAFTA as Best Supporting Actress and there was talk she should shift into that race for the Oscars. Constantly batting back and forth, Manville ended up missing out on an Oscar bid altogether. 

Bejo shouldn’t panic ahead of Academy Award nominations as “The Artist” is out front in the Best Picture race, according to Gold Derby’s poll of 30 top Oscarologists. When a film and performer are well liked, they can easily get promoted by the Academy. Consider Kate Winslet, who won Best Supporting Actress from SAG for “The Reader” in 2008 before being upgraded to Best Actress at the Oscars and winning there too. 

A 13-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes surprised everyone when she was nominated for Best Actress for “Whale Rider” (2003). She had been nominated in supporting at SAG. Her promotion made her the youngest ever Best Actress contender. 

The National Board of Review and Boston film critics gave Anthony Hopkins their Best Supporting Actor awards for “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991). The Globes, BAFTA, and the Oscars all nominated him as a lead performer; he won the latter two honors.

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If Bejo is nominated as a lead in “The Artist” by the Academy, the film will appear unstoppable on its way to the Oscar ceremony. While Bejo almost certainly would lose in lead, she remains a threat if the acting branch places her in supporting.


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