Outstanding performance by an ensemble cast is not an award category recognized by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, although other organizations will bestow such an honor – as an example, last year Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) took SAG’s Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture as well as Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Acting Ensemble.
So what to do when you have an ensemble film with no true lead actor and you want to go for Oscar gold? According to The Hollywood Reporter, Open Road plans to promote the entire cast of Tom McCarthy’s investigative journalism feature – Spotlight – for Best Supporting awards. Oscar buzz has surrounded the film since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month. McCarthy has earned a degree of pedigree in his own right- as a writer he was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for his contributions to Up (2009) screenplay. He also previously directed Richard Jenkins (Olive Kitteridge) to a Best Actor nomination for the 2008 drama The Visitor.
The strategy to push for multiple supporting awards has precedent. Open Road chief Tom Ortenberg handled Crash, the 2005 ensemble film, similarly when he was at Lionsgate. Crash garnered a supporting actor nomination for Matt Dillon and incidentally went on to win Best Picture. Another recent ensemble film, 2006’s Babel, landed two nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Adriana Barraza Rinko Kikuchi).
Spotlight’s starry ensemble includes Michael Keaton (nominated in the Best Actor category last year for Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category last year for Foxcatcher), Rachel McAdams (A Most Wanted Man), Liev Schreiber (Pawn Sacrifice), Stanley Tucci (nominated for Best Supporting Actor in The Lovely Bones), Billy Crudup (The Stanford Prison Experiment), John Slattery (Ant-Man) and Brian d’Arcy James (TV’s Smash). The awards campaign season is still young, and we shall see if one or more of the sterling cast gets pushed into the Oscar “spotlight.” The film hits theaters November 6th.