His Oscar Nomination Was Rescinded. He Hopes Andrea Riseborough’s Is Not


The last time the Academy rescinded a film’s Oscar nomination, no rules had been explicitly broken. Bruce Broughton, a veteran composer who’d previously been recognized for his score of 1985’s Silverado, had sent an email in December 2013 to several dozen members of the Academy’s music branch asking voters to check out his song on the ballot, “Alone Yet Not Alone,” which was cowritten with Dennis Spiegel for a small film of the same name. The film had no marketing budget to speak of, and Broughton—who’d served as a governor of the branch for nearly two decades—wanted to give himself a shot. He knew highlighting his work so publicly would be divisive. The branch nominated the song anyway. Then the Academy’s board of governors disqualified it, saying in a statement that while rules were not explicitly violated, “Broughton’s actions were inconsistent with the Academy’s promotional regulations.”

Speaking with Vanity Fair nearly 10 years later, Broughton sees similarities between himself and Andrea Riseborough, the surprise best-actress Oscar nominee for To Leslie whose campaign is being investigated by the Academy. The board is expected to close the matter—by addressing the status of the nomination and/or updating campaigning rules—after a meeting on Tuesday afternoon. “It seems to me that she’s caught in the same problem,” Broughton says. “She’s up against films from studios who have a lot of money to spend. If you’re in a small film that’s not being supported by the marketing budget of a large company, you’re screwed. No one’s going to see you and that’s it.”

To Leslie, which was distributed by the struggling Momentum Pictures and grossed less than $30,000 at the box office, earned strong reviews, especially for Riseborough’s performance as an addict vying to win back her estranged son. With very little marketing at its disposal, the film had not figured into the awards conversation until dozens of A-listers—alerted to the film by a powerful network including actor Mary McCormack, the wife of the film’s director, Michael Morris—promoted Riseborough’s candidacy en masse on social media, just before nomination voting began. The methods by which these stars—many of whom are Academy members—both became aware of and then supported the campaign have been scrutinized since Riseborough earned the nomination. Materials viewed by Vanity Fair indicate that the board will evaluate whether those directly associated with To Leslie adhered to guidelines over lobbying, the hosting of receptions and parties, and references to other nominees. 

Broughton’s situation similarly involved promotion that went against what’s deemed conventionally appropriate for an Oscar push, but was done out of a need to compete with a long line of Goliaths. His song was nominated opposite the likes of Frozen’s “Let It Go” and Despicable Me 2’s “Happy.” The faith-based Alone Yet Not Alone, by contrast, made less than $1 million at the box office and had no campaign infrastructure. “I don’t know how you get around a big studio, a big marketing budget, as the little film that’s just barely out there,” Broughton says. “If you don’t get publicity, you’re not going to get an award. You just aren’t.” If no one’s creating it for you, the logic goes, you must create it yourself. He thought the song was good and believed that if enough people actually listened, he’d get some votes. He wasn’t wrong.

The peer-driven nature of the Oscars—actors nominating actors, composers nominating composers, and so forth—marks another meeting point for the two controversies. Online, Riseborough received rapturous praise mostly from white, famous, successful Hollywood stars, which raised a few eyebrows given that a similar effort did not—and has yet to—materialize for actresses of color in low-budget contenders. (Danielle Deadwyler and Viola Davis, both unexpectedly snubbed for nominations this year, were backed by robust studio campaigns.)

Broughton’s connections as a former Academy governor drew criticism as well. He was specifically accused of leveraging branch connections to boost a personal candidacy. “I heard all sorts of stories of what I had done—that I had used the Academy mailing list to get emails, which was nonsense,” he says now. “About a year or two before this, I was trying to get the composers unionized. I still have a large phone list, but it has nothing to do with the Academy.” In fact, the issue of equal access and opportunity was of great concern to Broughton back when he served as a governor. He instituted screening series for all eligible songs—voters could watch as each song played in its film, to both listen and see how it was used—and found lesser-known artists fared better during those years. Things got more complicated as the Academy turned more international, making such screenings more geographically difficult. “It’s just funny because it was a problem that we tried to address, and I was part of trying to address it,” he says. “And I was the guy who took it in the neck when it actually became an issue.”

Broughton says he was not given the chance to plead his case to the board before it revoked his nomination; letters sent on his behalf by well-known composers and peers didn’t seem to make a dent, either. “I did something that was unpopular—I knew it was unpopular, but I knew why I was doing it,” he says. “There are people on the board who I’m sure were disappointed in me, who I would like to have talked to, or at least had my time to be able to talk about what was going on.” Instead, he says, he never got a real answer for the disqualification beyond that Academy statement. “Eighteen years of service to the Academy, and it was all taken away—bam—through innuendo, not because I broke any rules…. I didn’t ask anybody to vote for it. I just asked them to see it because I didn’t want to get lost.”

Shortly after the nomination was rescinded, Broughton was left off of a governors dinner invite sent to all former Academy board members. While the snub was attributed to an oversight, Broughton got the message. He left the Academy and is no longer a member. “It was a very hurtful thing,” he says. “I really try not to think about it.” But he is thinking about it now, in the context of Riseborough. “I hope in this particular case that the Academy doesn’t buckle to the power of the majors, because it’s a big force,” he says. “I know it’s a big force. Even just having been on the board for so many years, I know who gets paid attention to and who gets acknowledged—and who gets heard quicker.” 

He adds, “Unless they’ve got a really good rule, they have to leave it alone.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *