Michelle Williams and 9 Other Recent Examples of Oscars Category Fraud
That sounds like the wrong category.
Category fraud is a common practice at the Oscars. Since studios don't want to put two contenders from the same movie in the same category to avoid splitting the vote, they usually run for one lead and one supporting cast, regardless of whether they actually belong there or not.
Fabelmans' four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams is the latest case of category fraud. Williams is vying for arguably supporting performances in the leading actress category at this year's ceremony, joining a long list of performers who have managed to commit category fraud and earn Oscar nominations.
1 Michelle Williams - 'The Fabelmans' (2022)
When Steven Spielberg's semi-biographical passion film The Fabermans premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, many thought Michelle Williams would be the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress. The actor has been nominated four times for a performance that many have called her best, and with no clear frontrunner in the category, many believe this will finally be her year.
However, Williams shocked everyone by announcing that she would compete in the lead category. The move makes no sense; the entire movie is Sammy's point of view, Mitzi has no personal point of view. While she gets her fair share of screen time, in the end, it's Sammy's story, Not The Miz. Still, the move paid off, and Williams was nominated for her fifth Oscar, though she had no chance of winning.
2 Daniel Kaluuya - 'Judas And The Black Messiah' (2021)
Judas and the Black Messiah is a late addition to the 2021 awards competition. However, Daniel Kaluuya's performance seemed undeniable, making him an instant front-runner no matter which category he was placed in. Since the film had two prominent roles, the studio decided to push for Lex Stanfield in the leading role and keep Kaluuya in a supporting role.
The pick worked, and Kaluuya swept the awards season, picking up trophies left and right, including an Oscar. Kaluuya, however, has a prominent arc in the film independent of Stanfield or any other character. He's one of the film's main strengths, and casting him in a supporting role is a blatant move to avoid competing with Stanfield. Ironically, the Oscars ignored the studio's rankings and nominated Stanfield for Best Supporting Actor alongside Kaluuya.
3 Brad Pitt - 'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood' (2019)
Quentin Tarantino's revisionist historical comedy Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was Brad Pitt's fourth Academy Award nomination for acting. The actor co-starred opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie, and many correctly speculated that the studio would put Pitt in the supporting actor category, leaving DiCaprio as the movie's only actor run for election lead.
The strategy worked, and Pitt eventually won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The choices are confusing; Pitt's Cliff Booth doesn't part ways with DiCaprio's Rick Dalton for most of the film, but instead stars in a storyline separate from Dalton's personal storyline. The film has two equally important leading men, but putting Pitt in the lead would be a failure, as there's no way he could beat Joaquin Phoenix.
4 Emma Stone - 'The Favourite' (2018)
Emma Stone may be the most egregious case of category fraud in recent memory. The Oscar winner is one of three main characters in Yorgos Lanthimos' wicked historical black comedy The Favourite, the others being Oscar winners Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman.
Due to the critical reception of the film centered on a trio of actors, the studio opted to enter Coleman in the leading actress competition while awarding Best Supporting Actress to Stone and Weisz. While the decision worked, it's absurd to see Stone as a supporting character in the film. Her storyline is arguably the most prominent of the three, with Abigail being the star of the film. Coleman deservedly won the Oscar for Best Actress, but Stone deservedly tied with her for five leading actresses.
5 Alicia Vikander - 'The Danish Girl' (2015)
of The 2015 competition featured two notorious cases of category fraud. The first was Alicia Vikander's award-winning performance in Tom Hooper's historical drama The Danish Girl. The Swiss actress was in the running for Best Supporting Actress all season, winning numerous accolades, including an Oscar.
However, Vikander is the obvious protagonist in the film. The studio slyly placed her in the supporting category to avoid competing with Cate Blanchett and eventual winner Brie Larson. Still, Vikander's position remains a hot topic throughout the season, not least because of the BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for her lead role in the Danish Girl and support for her actual role in the dystopian sci-fi tale Ex Machina. Supporting roles work.
6 Rooney Mara - 'Carol' (2015)
Another prominent case of category fraud in 2015 was Rooney Mara. Carol is often cited as one of the best films of the 2010s, and rightfully so; an all-encompassing, thoughtful and precise film that leans toward restraint in its passionate but intellectual exploration of love.
Mara's performance was praised by critics, with many feeling that she was a real threat no matter which Oscar she ended up winning. Placing her in a supporting role contention to avoid competing powers with co-star Cate Blanchett. However, Therese is a leader The characters, plain and simple, would otherwise be considered ridiculous. Mara's loss of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar to Vikander was one of those rare cases where the front-runner for two supporting actresses was the lead, which is painful.
7 Julia Roberts - 'August: Osage County' (2013)
Adapted from the 2007 Tracy Letts play August: Osage County starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts ( Large Orchestra led by Julia Roberts. Though talkative, overly melodramatic, and far from one of the best theatrical adaptations, "August: Osage County" soared on the back of its veteran and respected performers, especially Roberts, who One of the best turns in an impressive career.
Roberts was a regular presence throughout the awards season, with the studio placing her in the supporting role category, leaving Streep as the film's only representative in the lead. The choice is puzzling considering Roberts' Barbara gets more screen time than Streep's Violet. Plus, Barbara is an anchor character audiences can easily relate to, especially among the film's other chaotic characters.
8 Hailee Steinfeld - 'True Grit' (2010)
The 2010s began with another flimsy case of category fraud. Hailee Steinfeld received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her performance in the Coen Brothers' new western "Thunder." However, she falls into the wrong category as her character Mattie Ross, obviously, is the protagonist of this film.
First, she gets more screen time than Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges. Secondly, Marty is the catalyst and leading force of the whole story. Steinfeld's age—14 at the time—could have been a factor in her selection, as the Academy was notorious for its reluctance to nominate young actors for leading roles.
9 Casey Affleck - 'The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford' (2007)
In 2007, Andrew Dominick was still a respected director, and his film The Cowardly Robert Ford Assassinates Jesse James cemented his status as a remarkable talent. Epic westerns stars Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck in their title roles with the revisionism of the classic story.
Affleck's work received rave reviews and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. But, he'd make more sense in the leading man; his Robert Ford is crucial to the film, with a sharp perspective that's very different from Pitt's Jesse James.
10 Cate Blanchett - 'Notes On A Scandal' (2006)
Cate Blanchett for her complex role as disaffected teacher Sheba Hart in Richard Eyre's psychodrama Notes on a Scandal in 2007. role, which earned her her third Oscar nomination. The movie pits her against Judi Dench in a fight Wit, both actors deliver some of the best work of their careers.
Although Dench was vying for the leading role and Blanchett was in the supporting role, both actors co-starred in the film. Sheba's story is independent of Dench's Barbara, and the two characters have their own prominent struggles that also drive the plot forward. Had Blanchett been placed in the leading role category, she probably wouldn't have been nominated, but her presence in supporting roles remains controversial.