Campaigners Say There’s No Secret to Successful Emmy Strategy

Ray Richmond is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the June 12 issue of AwardsLine.
The question of how publicists generate sufficient buzz and attention to land their lesser-known TV series performer clients Emmy nominations is one that has no single answer. It’s something of a combination of the right advertising, effective marketing, timely late-night talk show appearances, savvy social media campaigning—and luck. And then, of course, the actor or actress requires the necessary goods in terms of talent or no amount of effort will matter.
Jillian Roscoe, vp of talent at ID-PR in Los Angeles, includes among her client list a handful of series regulars who landed their first Emmy noms (and, in a few cases, wins) under her guidance. They include Max Greenfield (a surprise comedy supporting actor nominee last year for Fox’s New Girl), Ty Burrell (nominated the past three years and a comedy supporting winner in 2011 for ABC’s Modern Family), Jim Parsons (a lead comedy nominee since 2009 and winner in 2010 and ’11 for CBS’ Big Bang Theory) and four-time nominee John Slattery of AMC’s Mad Men.
“There isn’t any secret,” Roscoe maintains, ”except to have very talented clients. My job is simply to make sure that the right people—i.e. TV Academy voters—have my people on their radar. I don’t need to spin anything. It’s about strategically targeting, and I’m just a bridge.”
One longtime personal publicist with several high-profile TV clients who prefers to remain anonymous emphasizes that the cooperation and participation of a client in any campaign often makes the difference between earning a nomination and being overlooked. “You hope they’re together with you on it,” she explains. “And if they’re not pushing, you have to try everything: Late-night shows, daytime show appearances, special-issues interviews. The ultimate question is, do you do a mailing or buy ads yourself?”
Richard Licata, executive vp of communications at NBC and who has helped spearhead Emmy campaigns at HBO, Fox, Showtime and other networks, makes the point that sometimes getting attention for younger talent requires patience, and that often you need to first plant a seed and look for it to sprout a year or two later. ”That’s how it worked when we tried to get a supporting nom for Merritt Wever on Nurse Jackie back in 2010,” Licata recalls. “And then finally, Merritt was nominated in 2012.”

A Look Back At SAG Awards ‘I’m An Actor’ Speeches

This article published in the Jan. 2 issue of AwardsLine.

Here’s some of our favorite “I’m an Actor” speeches from SAG Awards shows over the years.


“My first memory of wanting to be an actor came when I saw my mother play the title role in Evita. I watched her die on stage and come back to life in time for the applause, and I thought, Hi-diddly-dee. My name is Anne Hathaway, and I’m an actor.”

“I performed my first scene ever when I was 12 years old in the 7th grade at Birmingham High School. I was very shy, and I had no idea what I was doing, so I just flung myself off the cliff and felt like I was falling. I’ve been falling ever since. I think that’s kind of what it is, informed falling. I’m Sally Field, and I’m an actor.”

“My favorite thing about acting is that it truly allows you to transform yourself into another person. I’m Johnny Depp, and I’m an actor.” [as delivered by Jane Krakowski]

“I’ve talked my way out of 11 fights. I’ve cried more this year than most women do in a lifetime. Wherever I go, I seek out a mirror, and when one’s not available, I’ll make due with a car window or a dark picture. I’m Will Arnett, and I’m an alcoholic [quickly corrects himself], actor!”

“On Jan. 15, 2009, a US Airways pilot named Chesley Sullenberger performed an exacting, perfect emergency landing into the icy cold waters of Hudson River. It’s a good thing I was not behind the controls of that plane, because I’m Steve Carell, and I’m an actor.”

“When I was waitressing right out of college, I went on my first television audition. The casting director told me to move to Europe because my looks would never make it on TV in America. I’m Julianna Margulies, and I’m proud to be an actor.”

“When I was a kid, I agonized about whether I wanted to be an actor when I grew up or an astronaut. And both of them have their advantages. Actors get to meet and work with the most beautiful women in the world, and astronauts get to spend long-duration space flights in pressure suits filled with their own urine. I’m Jon Cryer, and I’m an actor.”

SAG Awards’ ‘Actors Stories’ Remain Enduring Tradition

Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor. This article appeared in the Jan. 2 issue of AwardsLine.

And the winner was: Angela Lansbury.

When the Screen Actors Guild Awards first came on the scene in 1995, Lansbury was nominated for her role as Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote. She lost to Kathy Baker of Picket Fences.

But even though she did not go home with the Actor statuette, Lansbury’s introductory speech at the ceremony was such a hit that it launched a tradition that has become a highlight of the annual SAG Awards: the Actors Stories—unofficially known as the “I Am an Actor” speeches.

Lansbury gave the audience some background information on the new awards, but she also added a personal touch via a list of some of her more memorable roles: “I’ve been Elizabeth Taylor’s sister, Spencer Tracy’s mistress, Elvis’ mother, and a singing teapot.” She added: “Tonight is dedicated to the art and craft of acting by the people who should know about it: Actors. And remember, you’re one too!”

Then, as now, SAG Award winners have plenty of time to thank their agents, parents, partners, pets, and assorted deities for their success when they take the stage. But in an industry overwhelmed with awards ceremonies and endless opportunities for self-congratulation, the Actors Stories mark a refreshing change of pace, a chance for the TV audience to learn more about the craft of acting and the often-rocky road to stardom. And, for the all-actor crowd at the live awards, it was a chance to learn little-known facts about each other.

For the first eight years, the SAG Awards appointed one actor to make such a speech, says Kathy Connell, producer of the awards since their inception. That list includes such distinguished stars as John Lithgow, Ian McKellen, James Woods, Kathy Bates, and Whoopi Goldberg. Borrowing from Lansbury’s speech—or maybe Alcoholics Anonymous?—remarks have always included some variation on the phrase: “I am (name here), and I’m an actor.”

Goldberg’s 2000 speech illustrates the typical actor’s blend of pride and insecurity: “I’m an actor. I strut and fret my hour upon the stage, and I’ve done a lot of strutting because I am an actor. Am I the right age to play a mother? OK, I don’t sweat that one so much. Am I the right sex to play a Roman slave? Am I the right color to play a maid? Ha, ha. Is anybody going to believe that I could pass for a nun? Am I going to eat next week?”

For the ninth annual SAG Awards in 2003, Connell says supervising producer Gloria Fujita-O’Brien suggested replacing a single one- to two-minute speech with multiple Actor Stories of 15 to 30 seconds. The 2003 speakers included Alfred Molina, Kathy Bates (who confessed to starting her career as a singing waitress in the Catskills), Kristin Davis, Keith Williams, Halle Berry (who once dreamed of being an Olympic gymnast but “wasn’t quite good enough”), and David Hyde Pierce, who joked: “I’m still looking for a movie to do this summer. My name is David Hyde Pierce, and I’m an actor.”

At the awards ceremony, attended only by actors and closed to the press, the actors sit at tables rather than in rows. Those chosen to speak deliver their Actors Stories from their seats. Executive producer and director Jeff Margolis says the actors who will speak are miked in the green room, and nobody, including their tablemates, knows in advance who will tell a personal story to the roving Steadicam.

“I think it’s sort of become our signature—we’re the only show that does it,” Margolis says. “It gives the actors a chance to do something other than thank 40 people that nobody knows. The people at home, as well as some of the other actors, don’t know how these people got started.”

In the years of the longer speeches, Writers Guild members wrote the comments with the actors’ input. Now actors provide their own material, giving the producers an advance copy. But that doesn’t mean there are no surprises, Connell observes. “They have thought about it, but it is also live television. Sometimes (the speech) gets tweaked, so we are all having a live moment.”

Some speeches are comic. Some are heartfelt. And some, like this 2004 Actor Story, are just plain bemused: “In 1978, I got my SAG card and since then I’ve been asked to give it back on six separate occasions. I’m Brad Garrett, and I don’t belong here.”

A Look Back At The Campaign Strategy Of Crying Game

This story appeared in the Nov. 14 issue of AwardsLine.

Excellent buzz is the most cherished asset during awards season, but in 1992, Miramax and producer Stephen Woolley asked audiences the impossible: Keep a secret.

Amazingly, they made good on their promise about “the twist” in The Crying Game, turning an undefinable genre title with a fresh-faced cast and then-unknown Irish director Neil Jordan into a crossover boxoffice hit (a $101K opening turned into $62.5 million domestic) and serious awards contender, further solidifying the Weinstein brothers’ rep as the quintessential shepherds of awards-worthy fare.

Concerned that critics would spoil The Crying Game’sturning point during its initial release in Great Britain by his company Palace Pictures, Woolley ripped a page out of his bible, King of the Bs, an anthology of interviews with Z-grade directors such as Roger Corman and John Waters. Woolley wrote a letter to the press, asking them to avoid spoiling the film’s twist in their writeups: That the singer-hairdresser, Dil (played sublimely by Jaye Davidson), with whom ex-IRA terrorist Fergus (Stephen Rea) falls in love, is really a man.

The film’s first U.S. review by Variety out of the Telluride Film Festival set the secrecy standard that all American outlets emulated after receiving letters at press screenings: “The plot contains two major—and several other minor—convulsive surprises that, if revealed, would considerably spoil a first-time viewing experience, making it nearly impossible to describe the film in advance in meaningful detail.”

“For people to avoid giving away the twist, the film had to deliver. Audiences talked about it at dinner parties and on the factory floor,” Woolley recalls.

As Miramax continued to hold the media spoilers at bay, “the film posed a real problem to advertise, up until the day of release,” Woolley says. Miramax settled on a one-sheet that would really throw off moviegoers: A mug of Miranda Richardson (who played Fergus’ comrade Jude) holding a gun and sporting a Louise Brooks hairstyle.

“Miramax played on the words Crying Game and positioned the film as a noirish thriller with the tagline ‘Play at Your Own Risk,’ indicating that there was a slight sexual connation, a dangerous area,” Woolley adds.

As Crying Game gained traction during awards season, Miramax made strides to keep the lid on Davidson’s identity. The National Board of Review respected this by intentionally giving Davidson the award for Most Auspicious Debut. One of the few interviews Davidson granted was to The New York Times’ Janet Maslin in December 1992, and the resulting profile continued to shroud the former fashion designer assistant’s sex, while detailing his overnight discovery at a film wrap party. A former marketing consultant, who worked on The Crying Game, remembers how “we held off from giving the Academy Jaye Davidson’s photo until the last minute.” However, Oscar voters were hardly in the dark as Miramax bought best supporting actor For Your Consideration ads in Variety throughout the season.

When Oscar nominations announced Davidson as a nominee in the category, it appeared the cat was finally out of the bag. A San Francisco Chronicle op-ed exclaimed, “The secret about Davidson is pretty much out—she was nominated for an Oscar as best supporting actor. How many more clues do people need? And yet everyone is still being coy. The new ads for The Crying Game mention that it was nominated for six Oscars but don’t mention Davidson by either name or category.”

The Associated Press also outed Davidson, much to the chagrin of Miramax cofounder Harvey Weinstein, who, as the article pointed out, “called the Associated Press urging the secret remain secret. ‘You’re not hurting me financially. You’re ruining the movie for audiences.’ ” Hardly so. The Crying Game’s U.S. boxoffice surged two-fold between Oscar noms and the night of the ceremony, from $15.8 million to $47.3 million.

Davidson would lose the Oscar to Gene Hackman for his turn as a crooked sheriff in Unforgiven, but that didn’t bother the Riverside, CA, native. He never plotted an acting career in the first place. A prolific role as the sun god Ra in MGM’s scifi film Stargate followed. At one point during Cannes 1998, it was announced Davidson was attached to a Steven Seagal action title Cousin Joey opposite Mickey Rourke (which was never made). Largely, Davidson remains MIA with IMDb reporting his last acting credit as a Nazi photographer in the 2009 short The Borghilde Project. Per Woolley, “I think he’s in Paris. The last I heard, he was really happy.”

Still, The Crying Game’s marketing machine continues to break the mold. Some studios have tried to copy it and failed. And arguably no other distributor, especially during awards season, has ever attempted a word-of-mouth campaign based on hush. Had the film unspooled in the current age of viral blogging, it’s plausible that any coverage on The Crying Game would be preceded with the warning “Spoilers Ahead.”

“The first bravest thing was making The Crying Game,” says Woolley.The second bravest thing was the domestic distributor that went out there and broke all the rules: Acquiring a tiny British-made film by an unknown filmmaker and pretending that it was a mainstream picture.”

Britannia Awards Honor American And British Talent

Craig Modderno is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of AwardsLine.

In what looks to be the start of another lively awards season, the first volley has been fired by the Brits. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, will honor both American and British talent at its annual Britannia Awards ceremony, taking place Nov. 7 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.

The relatively loose, humorous affair, which will air for the first time in primetime on BBC America Nov. 11, is part of BAFTA LA’s efforts to continue to forge strong ties between the Hollywood community and its counterparts in Great Britain. Though the Britannias aren’t always about the pursuit of Oscar, the awards show often represents one of the initial high-profile stops on the November-February circuit. In fact, a couple of this year’s honorees, most notably Django Unchained director and John Schlesinger honoree Quentin Tarantino and Lincoln star and Stanley Kubrick honoree Daniel Day-Lewis, will factor heavily into the season’s conversation, giving the Britannias a bigger slice of the spotlight.

Though the event isn’t as no-holds-barred as some of Hollywood’s better-known nontelevised ceremonies, Donald Haber, executive director and chief operating office of BAFTA LA, says it occupies a special place on the calendar for the filmmaking community.

“Kate Winslet, who previously received the Britannia Award, said it best,” Haber explains. “She said, ‘It’s more enjoyable to go to an awards ceremony when you know you’ve already won!’ ”

Other Britannia-bestowed individuals include Skyfall star Daniel Craig, who is British Artist of the Year; South Park and Book of Mormon creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who will receive the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy; and videogame designer Will Wright, who will receive the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment.

“While Mr. Wright may not be a household name, we feel his contribution to videogames, which more studios are regarding as a necessary offshoot of their high-profile films, is worth honoring,” Haber offers. “Wright’s award shows that BAFTA is ahead of the curve in recognizing this emerging art form.”

AwardsLine spoke to several industry professionals who have worked with this year’s honorees. Here’s what they had to say:

On Daniel Craig, British Artist of the Year

“When Daniel got Bond he went immediately into a strict workout schedule. He focused like an athlete on getting his body in shape. I would have dinner with him during the making of Casino Royale, and he turned down wine and dessert in order to finish—after a day of shooting—another complete workout. Very quickly, I realized Daniel was a character actor evolving into a leading man.

“We tested Daniel doing the first scene with the girl in From Russia With Love. Now, we all know Sean Connery was the template for Bond and, in my opinion, that was his best performance. Though it’s hard to compare Bonds, we’ve used that scene in auditions before because it has the qualities of Bond that we’ve always wanted. (But) Daniel actually had to be talked into playing Bond. A major part of him didn’t want to enter a pub knowing that when he exited he would face an endless, aggressive pack of photographers. Daniel insists that all future films we do will be cast with credible actors and credible premises. So you’ll see no more Tanya Roberts or Denise Richards or starlets like that from past Bond pictures. We’re in the era of serious Bond stories now.”

—Michael G. Wilson, producer

“When I directed Daniel in Road to Perdition and later in Skyfall, there were a few noticeable differences. He has a much greater inner confidence now. He has a strong center, is a better actor, and knows how to adjust his inner intensity and anger in a way that works best for him now. Daniel also has a wacky sense of humor that he allows himself to reveal more of now. In Road to Perdition, much like the Bond films, Daniel’s got an incredible controlled spring of intensity, verging on psychotic emotions. He told me about directing a Bond film that nothing could prepare me for it. Daniel trusted me to bring my vision as much as possible to the table. There’s nothing better than having an actor who wanted to be pushed, who wanted me not to be standoffish but critical when necessary. At first, when he was chosen, I didn’t believe Daniel was the perfect Bond choice, but in Casino Royale they made him play a real person and not a cartoon character, and audiences and critics responded to it in an overwhelmingly positive manner.”

—Sam Mendes, director

On Quentin Tarantino, John Schlesinger Award for Excellence in Directing

“There was no difference between the Quentin I worked with on Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained. It’s like watching someone you believe in fulfill their promise through the past 20 years. What people don’t recognize is how romantic Quentin’s films are. The British realized that early. The British actually embraced and discovered Quentin before American audiences did.

“When you’re working with Quentin, everyone brings their A-game to the set. Everyone realizes it’s not just a job, but we’re all having an adventure telling a story. I often feel like a bush-leaguer around him because of his vast film knowledge. When we made Django Unchained, we had a lot of fun watching westerns, some of which I hadn’t seen, like Rio Bravo and Don Siegel’s Flaming Star, which starred a very believable Elvis Presley.”

 —Stacey Sher, producer

On Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy

“It was so bizarre how we met. They came to my show Avenue Q because they were working with puppets on a film. They were heroes of mine so I thanked them in the program’s credits, which freaked them out because they had never met me. We went out after the play and discovered we all wanted to do a play about Mormons—who knew! I had my fiancée join us later, and almost immediately Matt offered us his Hawaii home for our honeymoon. Jeff Marx, my cocomposer on Avenue Q, asked me what they were like. I told him, ‘They’re just like us only richer, funnier, and better-looking!’

“For me what made the play work was Matt and Trey’s way of building a song in a well-crafted manner, where the laughs built in the same way as the music. The show hasn’t opened in England, so I have no idea why they’re getting this award from the Brits. I’m sure their first comment upon being told of the honor was to ask if there was a free meal attached. There’s a song called ‘I Believe,’ which the show’s producers wanted us to write and we didn’t want to. I then showed the boys the film clip ‘I Have Confidence in Me’ from The Sound of Music. We believed there’s no such thing as a bad idea when we were doing the project so Matt and Trey started composing their own words to the tune and changed some things musically. The Rodgers and Hammerstein estate loved our song and gave their blessings to it for the play.”

—Robert Lopez, composer-lyricist

On Daniel Day-Lewis, Stanley Kubrick Award for Excellence in Film

“I first saw Daniel in the Stephen Frears’ film My Beautiful Laundrette. The first time he came onscreen, he was amazing and charismatic. He seemed fearless. In that movie, he plays a gay character, so he wasn’t stuck-up about his image.

“He isn’t an actor of multiple takes; he has it instantly. (Since The Boxer), I haven’t found anything that was good for him to do, not that he refused anything, but obviously I would love to find something for him.

“(During In the Name of the Father), when his father was dying, we did an improvised scene where we passed time and he wrapped the tape around his head—that was powerful. Also, the scene where he signs his life away, he had stayed out a few days without sleeping (the night before), and that was very emotional.”

—Jim Sheridan, director

Anthony D’Alessandro contributed to this report.

Awards Season At A Studio-By-Studio Glance

With the awards season is dissected and examined these days, it might appear as though creating a successful campaign is simply a matter of shrewd marketing and a key release date. But even the most cynical strategist will admit that luck is still as much a part of earning an Oscar nomination as anything else. When asked about the plan for a particular film in the awards race, a veteran campaigner said simply, “Light candles, pray.”

Whether they’re already on pundits’ lists or just looking for a little good juju, here’s a look at the films that are in the conversation, not including animation, documentaries, or foreign-language (with a few notable exceptions):

The Majors:


Last year, Disney’s partnership with DreamWorks yielded two best picture nominees, War Horse and The Help, the latter of which also earned supporting actor Octavia Spencer her first statuette. This year, Steven Spielberg’s followup to War Horse, Lincoln, is considered an all-category heavyweight, from director to Tony Kushner’s adapted screenplay to costumes to production design. And Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as the 16th president of the United States already has prognosticators declaring best actor in advance of its Nov. 9 theatrical release. Disney also has this summer’s hit from Marvel, The Avengers, which earned $1.5 billion at the worldwide boxoffice and is likely to factor into the below-the-line race.


It’s going to be hard to top last year’s success with Martin Scorsese’s 3-D love letter to film, Hugo, which ultimately earned five Oscars. But having a Denzel Washington-Robert Zemeckis project nestled in prime awards territory certainly won’t hurt. Flight, which marks Zemeckis’ first live-action effort in more than a decade, stars Oscar winner Washington as a commercial pilot with a substance-abuse problem. The film could be considered a dark horse for best picture, and is getting buzz for screenplay and supporting actor John Goodman. Paramount Vantage also has David Chase’s first post-Sopranos film, Not Fade Away, which follows a group of friends who start a band and features a supporting role from Tony himself, James Gandolfini.

Sony Pictures

Sony’s big awards-season hopeful is a film with an enviable pedigree: Zero Dark Thirty, which details the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden, is the followup effort of director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, both of whom won Oscars for their work on The Hurt Locker in 2010. The film is likely to factor into all major categories including lead actress Jessica Chastain, supporting players Jason Clarke and Jennifer Ehle, as well as below-the-line slots. Among Sony’s other films are the new Bond film Skyfall, which has a cast including Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, and Javier Bardem—none of whom are strangers to Oscar—plus an original song from Adele; Rian Johnson’s Looper, which has drummed up small but ardent Internet support; and the August release, Hope Springs, which features Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones.

Twentieth Century Fox

Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, which drew early raves when it opened the New York Film Festival, is a visually stunning story about a young man (Suraj Sharma) who’s adrift on the ocean, sharing his vessel with a tiger. Having an unknown in the lead will make it tough to break into the acting category, but it has all the other indicators of a serious all-category contender. Two other potential candidates from Fox’s slate are Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, which could get recognized below the line, and Won’t Back Down, which stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis.


All eyes will be on Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables when it starts screening in November, ahead of its Christmas release. Not only are voters eager to see the big-screen adaptation of the musical—which stars Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman and has a supporting performance from Anne Hathaway—but its unveiling will bring further clarity to the race. It’s likely to factor into all categories (except original score, of course), including for the song “Suddenly,” which was written specifically for Jackman. The studio also has hopes for Judd Apatow’s followup to Knocked Up, This Is 40, which will qualify as an adapted screenplay because it picks up some of the same characters; Snow White and the Huntsman for below the line and original song; and Oscar host Seth MacFarlane’s summer hit Ted, in the visual-effects category; and Oliver Stone’s Savages.

Warner Bros.

Even with Gangster Squad and The Great Gatsby moving off of Warner’s 2012 slate this summer, the studio boasts a formidable group of films. Leading the pack is Ben Affleck’s Argo, which has been garnering plenty of Oscar talk since its debut at the Toronto Film Festival. Based on a true story, the film will factor into all the major categories, as well as editing, production design, costumes, and music. Not only will The Dark Knight Rises get an all-category push to mark the end of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, but Oscar winner Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit will be in all of those same categories and hail the start of a new three-film franchise. Tom Tykwer and Lana and Andy Wachowski’s time-bending Cloud Atlas is also being considered an all-category film, with an emphasis on the Wachowski Starship’s adapted screenplay and the crafts categories. Plus, it helps to have a cast of previous Oscar winners: Tom Hanks and Halle Berry in lead, Jim Broadbent in supporting. Trouble With the Curve will get support for Clint Eastwood’s lead role and Amy Adams’ supporting. And finally, for the ladies, Matthew McConaughey will get a boost for his supporting role in Magic Mike.

The Indies:


Shortly before this year’s Toronto Film Fest got underway, former Oscilloscope Laboratories cofounder and president David Fenkel announced his new distribution company, A24. Barely off the ground, the fledgling company is pushing to get into the awards game with Ginger & Rosa, starring Elle Fanning as a teenager in 1960s London dealing with family issues amidst the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s one of the few films this season directed by a woman, Sally Potter.

Focus Features

Focus’ 2011 awards push earned Gary Oldman his first best actor Oscar nomination for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, plus two others for adapted screenplay and score. And this year, Focus has four films that are a part of the conversation, including Wes Anderson’s Gotham Award-nominated Moonrise Kingdom, which premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and is a likely original screenplay contender. In addition, Joe Wright’s lush, highly stylized adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic, Anna Karenina, which is an all-category contender, hits theaters Nov. 16. Keira Knightley is getting attention for her role as the doomed Anna, and the film’s costumes and production design have craftspeople swooning. Focus earned some festival-circuit attention for also Hyde Park on Hudson, which features Bill Murray as President Franklin D. Roosevelt who strikes up an affair with his distant cousin Margaret, played by Laura Linney; as well as Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land, a relatively late addition to the Oscar schedule that stars Matt Damon and John Krasinski, both of whom also cowrote the original screenplay.

Fox Searchlight

With two best picture nominees last year—The Descendants and The Tree of Life—Fox Searchlight is firmly entrenched in the awards game. The specialty division made two key purchases at January’s Sundance Film Festival, both of which have prognosticators buzzing about Searchlight’s prospects for this year. First, Beasts of the Southern Wild, the feature-film debut of director Benh Zeitlin and starring two first-time actors, has earned just over $11 million at the boxoffice since June. Second, The Sessions, is a bittersweet story that stars John Hawkes as a paralyzed man who consults a sex therapist, played by Helen Hunt, which had a solid limited opening in late October. Searchlight’s big hit of the year, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, has grossed $134.4 million worldwide since its May release and features a top-notch cast including Judi Dench and Bill Nighy. And when the November release Hitchcock, directed by Sacha Gervasi, was announced last month as the opening-night film of the AFI Fest, it was instantly clear that the Helen Mirren-Anthony Hopkins picture would be a big part of awards chatter heading into a crucial balloting period.

Indomina Films

This relatively new indie distributor bought LUV, a drama about a boy and his troubled uncle starring Common and Michael Rainey Jr., at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.


Earning just over $400 million, The Hunger Games took the summer’s boxoffice by storm. Lionsgate is hoping the Academy will recognize the Jennifer Lawrence-starrer for its crafts achievements.


Screeners went out early for Millennium Entertainment’s dark comedy Bernie, which premiered at last year’s Los Angeles Film Festival. The film, which stars Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and Matthew McConaughey, is gaining momentum after earning Gotham Award nominations for feature and ensemble. Millennium also has Lee Daniels’ Florida noir The Paperboy, which drew decidedly mixed reviews at Cannes but stars Oscar winner Nicole Kidman.

Magnolia Pictures

The ripped-from-the headlines story in Compliance stars Ann Dowd as a fast-food-store manager who’s manipulated by a caller pretending to be a police officer. Magnolia also has Sarah Polley’s latest directorial effort, Take This Waltz, as well as Denmark’s official foreign-language entry, A Royal Affair, which has an attention-grabbing performance from Mads Mikkelsen.

Open Road

Liam Neeson’s emotional performance in the survival drama The Grey received a lot of attention when the film was released in January, but the actor race is particularly crowded this year, perhaps making it tough for him to break through. Open Road also has the well-received cop drama End of Watch, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, which could get attention for screenplay, crafts, and acting, particularly Michael Pena’s supporting performance.


There will be a very targeted effort from Relativity this year for the costumes of Mirror Mirror and Keith Urban’s original song, “For You,” from Act of Valor.

Sony Pictures Classics

It’s rare for a foreign-language film to break into major categories, but Sony Pictures Classics has two that are a topic of conversation. Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or-winning Amour is appealing to older audiences through its emotional lead performers, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, both of whom could earn acting noms. Rust and Bone, a Palme d’Or nominee, stars Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard as a whale trainer who loses her legs, for which the visual effects alone are worth Academy attention. On the English-language side is To Rome With Love, Woody Allen’s followup to last year’s Oscar-winning original screenplay, Midnight in Paris; Celeste & Jesse Forever, starring Rashida Jones—who also cowrote the original screenplay—and Andy Samberg; and Smashed, featuring a performance from Mary Elizabeth Winstead that’s getting some attention.

Roadside Attractions

Richard Gere has been well-reviewed in Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage, giving many awards watchers reason to start talking about the actor getting a career-first Oscar nomination. The indie label has hopes in all categories, particularly for Jarecki’s original screenplay. Stand Up Guys, which stars Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, is getting an actor push, as well as one for the Jon Bon Jovi original song, “Not Running Anymore.”


Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible, which stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, tells the real-life story of a family separated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It’s an all-category contender, particularly for screenplay and its detailed re-creation of the devastating wave. Summit also has The Perks of Being a Wallflower, adapted from Stephen Chbosky’s novel and starring Emma Watson.

Sundance Selects/IFC Films

The long-in-the-making adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s seminal On the Road had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, more than 50 years after its publication. The film, starring Garrett Hedlund and Kristin Stewart, could be a dark horse for adapted screenplay and below-the-line categories.

The Weinstein Co.

Master campaigner Harvey Weinstein is following his best picture win for The Artist with an awards-season slate that includes some of the most renowned directors working today. Although the Gotham Award-nominated September release The Master has divided audiences, there’s no argument that the all-category Paul Thomas Anderson film is visually stunning and has great performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, which stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, was a crowd-pleaser at the Toronto Film Festival and recently earned an ensemble Gotham Award nom. Quentin Tarantino’s December release Django Unchained, still yet to be screened, is a third all-category film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx. In addition, multiple Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with Quartet, about a group of aging musicians in a retirement home that stars Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, and Billy Connolly; and Brad Pitt has a lead role and James Gandolfini supporting in Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly. The company also has France’s official foreign-language submission The Intouchables, which is being pushed for best picture.