Winfrey, who reaped an Oscar bid for her film debut in 1985’s “The Color Purple,” is getting great buzz for playing the wayward wife of a man who toiled backstairs at the White House for more than three decades. The awards pedigree of this project is top-notch with Oscar winner Forest Whitaker as the title character, a slew of talent including Oscar champs Robin Williams and Jane Fonda as members of the first families, Oscar nominee Lee Daniels (“Precious”) helming and Emmy champ Danny Strong (“Game Change”) scripting.
Winfrey was a strong frontrunner to win the Supporting Actress Oscar until the bombshell dropped that Streep was sweeping into this race. We all expected the three-time Oscar champ to be up in lead for her work as the big bad mama in this film version of the 2008 Pulitzer champ. After all, Deanna Dunagan had taken home the Best Actress prize at the Tony Awards for originating the role of viper-tongued Violet who tangles with her daughter.
On stage, Amy Morton played the part of the beleaguered Barbara who eventually rebels against her mad mother; she lost the Tony to Dunagan. On screen, Julia Roberts takes on this juicy role and, with Streep out of the way, she suddenly becomes a serious contender for Best Actress.
While Roberts has one Oscar on her mantle for her lead role in “Erin Brockovich” (2000), Streep has three: one for supporting (“Kramer vs. Kramer,”1979 ) and two for lead (“Sophie’s Choice,” 1982; “The Iron Lady,” 2011). If Streep can win again, she will tie the record of Katharine Hepburn for most wins, although all four of Hepburn’s Oscars came for starring roles. Streep already holds the record for most nominations (17).
While Streep’s demotion to featured player could clear the way for Roberts, she could well bump another costar, Margo Martindale, out of the running. The Emmy champ (“Justified”) plays Mattie, Violet’s mealy-mouthed sister Mattie. Rondi Reed won the Tony for creating the scene-stealing role.
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