Comedian Marc Maron, host of the wildly popular podcast “WTF with Marc Maron” and who had a substantial supporting role opposite Oscar nominee Andrea Riseborough in the microbudget feature “To Leslie,” took to his podcast on Monday to smack down the film academy over its announcement last Friday that it’s “conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year’s nominees” following Riseborough’s surprise Best Actress nomination for the film.
“Apparently, the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences or whatever the fuck it is has decided to investigate Andrea Riseborough’s grassroots campaign to get her the Oscar nomination,” said Maron, “because I guess it so threatens their system to where they’re completely bought out by corporate interests in the form of studios.”
Since last Tuesday’s nominations announcement, a controversy erupted over the possibility that lobbying rules may have been violated in the successful drive to land Riseborough a nom for “To Leslie,” a film shot in 19 days that grossed all of $27,000 at the box office. Members of the Hollywood A-list turned out in droves on social media and at unofficial gatherings to sing the praises of Riseborough’s powerful performance as an alcoholic who ultimately finds redemption. At the same time, there has been grumbling that the actress’s Academy Awards ascension came at the expense of several other worthy performances that have otherwise been celebrated throughout awards season, chiefly those of Danielle Deadwyler in “Till” and Viola Davis in “The Woman King.”
Without directly naming Riseborough, a statement from the academy released on Friday noted, “It is the Academy’s goal to ensure that the awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner, and we are committed to ensuring an inclusive awards process. We are conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year’s nominees, to ensure that no guidelines were violated, and to inform us whether changes to the guidelines may be needed in a new era of social media and digital communication. We have confidence in the integrity of our nomination and voting procedures, and support genuine grassroots campaigns for outstanding performances.”
Members of the academy board of governors are meeting Tuesday to discuss the Riseborough nomination situation. But Maron, who portrayed the goodhearted motel owner Sweeney in “To Leslie,” has already rendered his own verdict. His Monday podcast rant continued, “Millions of dollars…put into months and months of advertising campaigns, publicity, screenings by large corporate entertainment entities, and Andrea was championed by her peers through a grassroots campaign which was pushed through by a few actors. “
Among the performers who stumped of their own accord for Riseborough were Gwynyth Paltrow, Amy Adams, Judd Apatow, Ellen Barkin, Edward Norton, Jennifer Aniston, Charlize Theron, Sarah Paulson, Alan Cumming, Helen Hunt, Minnie Driver, Debra Winger, Patricia Clarkson, Mira Sorvino, Rosie O’Donnell, Joe Mantegna and Kate Winslet. Winslet said of her work in “To Leslie,” “I think this is the greatest female performance on-screen I have ever seen in my life.”
Maron went on, “The academy (says), ‘Well, we gotta take a look at this, you know, this is not the way it’s supposed to work. Independent artists don’t deserve the attention of the academy unless we see how it works exactly. So, we’re going to look into this’.” He believes, “Nothing is going to happen because of it. It was in earnest, the campaign, and it is not undeserving. But I’m glad the academy – at the behest of special interest and corporate interest and just paranoia about how they look – are doing an investigation. Who gives a fuck?”
Writer-director Rod Lurie also leapt into the fray on Monday, likewise defending Riseborough in a Facebook post.
“Andrea Riseborough could lose her Oscar nomination because of excessive lobbying within the actors branch. This is, to be sure, an idiotic and insulting debate,” Lurie wrote. “Andrea’s film is a tiny, tiny thing, shot in nineteen days with barely two nickels. It has a distributor that couldn’t really afford to even put the movie into the Academy screening portal. (For the record, that cost is 20K, which (nearly) equals what the movie made worldwide.) They most certainly couldn’t afford even a partial Oscar campaign.”
Lurie’s Facebook post continued, “The fact that this actor and performance got attention via grassroots is, to me, both fair and touching. I would even say that it is a more honest way to get attention than through (the) countless parties and buffets that the larger films can and do offer (which I LOVE and do appreciate)…I say more power and love to those artists who fell in love with the work of another artist and were determined to see it get the attention they felt it deserved. I am sorry that Andrea has to see her moment of triumph have this moment of sullying. This is bullshit and needs to be put to bed ASAP.”
No matter what is discovered in the academy review, few expect that Riseborough’s nomination could actually be rescinded, as that would open a whole other can of worms and likely result in her lead actress category having to go with just four nominees rather than five.
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