By now we’re all aware that British star Andrea Riseborough scored a best actress Oscar nomination for To Leslie after her director’s wife and others orchestrated a skilled grassroots political campaign that made Obama 2008 look like Hillary 2016. Mary McCormack and friends emailed and called tons of members of the Academy’s actors branch, begging them to see the little-watched alcoholic drama and post online about Riseborough’s searing performance. The result: dozens of influential stars—Gwyneth, Jen, Howard, Cate, Amy Adams, Ed Norton, and many, many more—sang her praises and helped win her the coveted nomination.
But the shock nom has created a brewing shitstorm within the Academy because Riseborough seemingly pushed out Viola Davis (The Woman King) and Danielle Deadwyler (Till), two actresses of color that were backed by well-funded campaigns by Sony and MGM/Amazon, respectively, and were widely predicted to score honors, yet presumably do not have access to a network of powerful (and, let’s be honest, white) friends in the Academy to campaign for Oscars on their behalf. To some, it was the worst kind of racially-tinged cronyism, where the connections outshined the work. “We live in a world and work in industries that are so aggressively committed to upholding whiteness and perpetuating and unabashed misogyny toward Black women,” the Till director Chinonye Chukwu posted on Instagram.
I’m not sure I agree with that—after all, what gets nominated is always a complex mix of quality, positioning, and politics—but the controversy raises a key question: Did the Riseborough effort violate Oscar campaign rules? I’m told the Academy is looking at this issue, and that it will likely be raised at the board of governors meeting on Tuesday. (The organization declined to comment.)