The Academy Award nominations won’t be unveiled for another three months, but at least one of the major races has already been shaken up.
Viola Davis, whose performance in the adaptation of August Wilson’s “Fences” had been earning her rave reviews, has decided to compete as a supporting actress for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, CNN has confirmed. It had been presumed the “How to Get Away with Murder” star would compete in the lead actress categories this award season.
With this move, which likely indicates the category she chooses to compete in for the Academy Awards, the field of contenders now has a little breathing room.
There are three lead actresses on virtually every prediction list so far: four-time Oscar nominee Annette Benning, Oscar winner Natalie Portman, and former supporting actress nominee Emma Stone.
Benning’s performance as a mother struggling to raise her son in the complex cultural climate of 1979 has been called “the type of role where merely watching her listen is a revelation,” according to a Guardian reviewer.
Fox Searchlight pinned its Oscar hopes on Portman’s “Jackie” — a movie that shows Jacqueline Kennedy in the days after her husband’s death. Indiewire called Portman “magnificently layered” in the role.
Stone, meanwhile, is arguably the frontrunner in “La La Land,” director Damien Chazelle’s retro Hollywood musical that’s also being considered a Best Picture favorite.
From there, the crowd gets a little hazier. Meryl Streep could likely score a spot for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” Ruth Negga might break through with “Loving,” or Amy Adams for “Arrival.” It’s a competitive field regardless.
That’s likely why Davis, who has been nominated for two Oscars, decided to compete as a supporting actress. Though, The Playlist, who broke the news of Davis’ category choice, argued the move could be based on the movie’s material.
In the supporting category, Davis likely faces competition from Michelle Williams (“Manchester By the Sea”), Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”), and possibly Nicole Kidman (“Lion”).
It’s worth noting that per rules, Oscar voters have the final call on category submissions. So Davis may still get placed in the lead actress race.
With no less than 10 major awards contenders opening in theaters before the end of the year, anything can happen.