Vanity Fair shared this article about the upcoming Oscar race and how Viola fits in it.
Though it still feels early in the 2017 Oscar race, the truth is most performances in major awards contender movies have been seen by members of the industry and critical circles either at festivals or advance screenings. One film, however, that has been kept under wraps so far is the adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences directed by and starring Denzel Washington and co-starring Viola Davis. But Broadway lovers, at least, have an idea of what to expect from Washington and Davis since the pair won matching best actor and actress Tony Awards for playing the same roles on the stage in 2010. But now, in a strategic move, Davis has decided to go after the best supporting actress Academy Award in order to ensure she finally gets to take home that Oscar.
This wouldn’t be the first time a performer with such a significant role in a film campaigned in the supporting category. Last year, for example, Alicia Vikander raised a few eyebrows in the supporting category when her role was basically equivalent in terms of importance and screen time to Eddie Redmayne’s in The Danish Girl. At its worst, the strategy of running a lead actor in a supporting category is labeled “category fraud,” but others simply call it, well, strategy.
Davis has a lot of momentum behind a potential win. Academy voters love the narrative of it finally being someone’s “turn.” Davis lost the supporting Oscar in 2009 to Penélope Cruz after her emotional, motherly breakdown in Doubt couldn’t top Cruz’s captivating sizzle in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. (For what it’s worth, Cruz in the supporting category for that film could convincingly be considered category fraud.) Davis lost again in 2012 this time in the leading actor category for The Help. That year Davis was pitted against Meryl Streep’s Iron Lady and had to watch her Help co-star, Octavia Spencer, go home with the supporting actress award.
This year the competition in the leading actress category is fierce with Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land), Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Amy Adams (Arrival), Annette Bening (20th Century Women), and more all early, strong contenders. Over in the supporting actress category, Davis might have to grapple with Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), and Lupita Nyong’o (Queen of Katwe) all of whom gave very strong performance but with much, much less screen time. Going by minutes on camera alone, Davis will have significantly more chances to make an impact on voters and a wider window to show her range.
Given that the Oscars have been grappling for years with diversity among its nominees, it’s also worth noting that as a woman of color, Davis statistically has a better chance of winning in the supporting category. Five women of color (Hattie McDaniel, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique, Octavia Spencer, and Lupita Nyong’o) have won supporting Oscars. Meanwhile, to-date, only one black woman, Halle Berry, has won in the leading category. That may be coincidence, or it may be a referendum on the systematic racial issues within the Academy that president Cheryl Boone Isaacs seems so determined to fix.
Davis would also, of course, be joining the fine tradition of sympathetic cinematic wives to win Oscars in the supporting category. Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Jennifer Connelly, Marcia Gay Harden, and more can all testify that Academy voters have a weakness for women who stand by their men.
So with this bold move has Davis cemented her chances at Oscar gold? Well, of course, it’s too early to tell. But it’s looking good for a woman who is long overdue. Fences opens nationwide on December 25.