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Viola Davis to Break Records if She Crashes the Best Supporting Actress Party

Over the weekend Viola Davis's camp confirmed they were officially aiming for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Fences. This disappoints us since she won the Lead Tony on Broadway for the role and now it seems like we're going to remain ages and ages away from another WOC winning Best Actress. It's been a long time since Halle Berry. Viola will of course become the most nominated black actress at the Oscars ever if she's nominated for Fences (which will be her 3rd nomination) making her the immediate frontrunner. 

Can Viola & Denzel repeat their Tony winning dominance at the Oscars for Fences?

Updated Best Actress Chart
Updated Best Supporting Actress Chart 

But let's discuss a less cited but even more impressive (though frustrating) record Viola may break. If Viola is nominated for Fences she becomes not just the most nominated black actress but the most nominated black woman of all time in any category. Viola is currently tied with five other women with two nominations each: most famously Oprah Winfrey (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress... she also has the non-competitive Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award), Whoopi Goldberg (both for acting), and Ruth E Carter (both times for costume design) who rose up in the 1980s and 1990s. Since the turn of the century three more black women have joined them: Viola, plus Sharen Davis (both times for Costume Design) and Siedah Garrett (both times for Original Song). The only way Viola doesn't keep this record for her own is if Sharen Davis joins her in a tie for most nominated in January. Sharen designed the costumes for Fences and could also be in the mix this year for a third time. Of those six women, only Whoopi has won a competitive Oscar. 

Costume Designer Sharen Davis (Fences) could break the record WITH Viola!

Updated: Removed commentary about a possible posthumous nomination for Wilson to do more research on the topic.

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Reader Comments (62)

You just keep refusing to put Streep in that top 5

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjamie

That was really interesting (and sad). Thanks for digging up the research.

I'm with both your actress and supporting actress predictions right now too. Though Adams and Streep missing seems so weird!

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph W

If Gugu (currently #15 on the chart) delivers the goods in Miss Sloane, the buzz around her episode in the new season of Black Mirror could/should push her up the list. After falling through the cracks (twice) in 2014, she's certainly due.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Very defeating Best Actress remains impenetrable for nonwhite performers. Halle Berry was fluke tokenism. They made sure the two white actresses she beat won their Oscars in rapid succession afterwards. And neither of their wins were popular.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

This disappoints us since she won the Lead Tony on Broadway for the role and now it seems like we're going to remain ages and ages away from another WOC winning Best Actress."

I share the same sentiments and I truly hope that her role in the film is not another category fraud (AKA Alicia/Rooney) but a substantial role that teeters between lead and supporting. TBH, her role in The Help was in that domain too, with the clear lead being Emma Stone.

But not to fret. Look out for her future collaboration with Steve McQueen in which she seemed to be the lead. That could be THE ONE.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBlueMoon02

I kind of want her to lose so she can win best actress in her fourth nomination?

She's best actress material, damn it

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

/3rtful -- well in this case its not so much impenetrable as Viola choosing not to penetrate it. I have little doubt she'd be nominated in lead if she campaigned that way.

October 25, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

This role is supporting in the original play -- it was more fraudulent to go Leading at the Tony's, but it was reflective of (and respectful to) her above-the-title status, which Rudin very smartly gave her with Denzel. It was a huge performance, but this is Troy's play -- Rose is a full character, but its not her journey. I suspect this will be a smart decision.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I feel like the 'beefed up Viola's role' commentary came/is coming from possible revisions from Tony Kushner despite him not receiving official credit now.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterErik Anderson

I think Viola reaaaallllyyyyy wants that Oscar, and she's going to do exactly what she needs to win it. Although I did see a report saying that when she saw the movie, she asked the studio to campaign her as supporting, because she didn't think that she was a Lead in the movie. Besides, I'm scared that if she did campaign for Best Actress, she'll lose to Emma Stone.

On a happy note, Isabelle Huppert sounds more plausible as the days go by.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterClarence

I thought her role in The Help was supporting. I think she would have won if that were the case. Too bad for Naomie Harris, though. This is Viola's.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

Important to remember Lead vs Featured is about billing with Tony Awards (with some exceptions decided by the board). Mary Alice won Featured in same role originally (and beat the Bening!)

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTom M

Steve - you wrote

Rose is a full character, but its not her journey. I suspect this will be a smart decision.
but that is exactly the same reason people gave for Alicia Vikander being "supporting" in DANISH GIRL and she was 100% a leading lady. We'll see.

October 25, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Agree with what Steve said. Re : the Tonys.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph W

I believe that she totally could have taken best actress had she decided to campaign as such, but even sight unseen she already feels like a lock in the supporting category because there's too much history and narrative there -- plus she's sure to be phenomenal. My only lingering question now is who in the hell will be the next black best actress winner. Clearly, with the Academy's history, one win would most likely be all for Davis no matter how many past nominations. Maybe if Taraji P. Henson gets a meaty starring vehicle, she could break through?

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

@ Nathaniel

Except that argument was spurious in the case of The Danish Girl, as the film depicted the journeys of *both* its leads. Vikander was even playing the title role, as it turned out.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I think Streep is solidly 4th, with Negga, Huppert and Adams fighting for 5th. They all have something going against them. Negga's performance is too quiet, Huppert is in a foreign film with a controversial subject matter, and Adams is in a sci-fi film. I'm inclined to say Adams because they seem to obsessed with her but who knows. I feel like Ruth Negga won't get a lot of opportunities, and Huppert has been a star for decades...

Chastain seems like the only possible big spoiler left? Maybe Taraji? Still smarting over that miss for A Most Violent Year! Awful release date.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Even if it's fair, there's something disappointing about this. And even if she wins, which would be great, I'd still want to her win Best Actress at some point and winning BSA here could hurt her chances later.

But if this is really because she saw the film and feels she's supporting, then good for her for maintaining her integrity and not succumbing to careerist ambition.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

DJDeeJay, I'd rather see her win as lead with fifteen minutes of screen time than as supporting with an hour and a half.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

@ Troy H. A thousand times yes.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterErik Anderson

Wow, everyone REALLY wants Viola to win an Oscar, sight unseen. I like her too, but dang, the performance hasn't even been seen yet. I'm sad that she is already seen as a foregone conclusion, and I worry that this may be another case of category fraud a la Alicia Vikander from last year. It makes the season less exciting when everyone is already engraving her name on the supporting actress Oscar.

It's especially sad since Michelle Williams and Naomie Harris are giving tour de force performances and both are legitimate supporting roles.

It's also interesting that Annette Bening is already considered a "lock"...I think she has a good shot, but there are a lot of women vying for those three slots after Natalie and Emma. I am wondering if Taraji P. Henson may be the secret weapon that emerges in late December for Hidden Figures.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

I really, REALLY LOVE your predictions for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress now. I sure do hope Huppert makes it in!!

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

Viola going Supporting is disappointing, but I'm here for her win regardless (I still really want her to win a Best Actress one day). I think Janelle Monae might be one to watch in Supporting for Hidden Figures, she looks like a scene stealer in the trailer and she might have momentum from Moonlight.

I know it's foolish to bet against Streep, but I feel like the field is too strong this year for even her to score a nomination. I'll probably be eating those words soon enough.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

@Nathaniel I hear you re: Alicia, but that was just an argument, and it was a false one in that case -- for my money, and knowing the material, it actually is the truth about this one!

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I forget where it was, but I read somewhere over the weekend from someone who in fact had seen an early cut of the movie that her performance is indeed supporting...take that for what it's worth. Here's hoping that is the case because category fraud is bullshit.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

Regarding Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins. I have to believe that after a barely deserved win for The Iron Lady, and hardly worthy nominations for August: Osage County and Into the Woods, she won't have the goodwill to get in for undeserving work this year. This is one of the strongest best Actress years of recent memory and if any other performer consistently didn't challenge themselves or what we thought them capable of, people would be more averse to nominating them endlessly.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDuncan Dykes

See, the thing is: if they thought Streep was undeserving or barely deserving for A:OS, ItW and The Iron Lady, they wouldn't have nominated/awarded her. And I can imagine there's nothing that would would make voters dig their heels in more than telling them they have poor taste/judgment. That is, if they're even paying to attention to the criticism.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I think that with her reviews (overwhelmingly positive and maybe even better than IL, AOC, ITW) and her promoting and campaigning the film all over the world, and he narrative that this year she earns her 20th nomination ( a pronouncement from critics this summer)- I believe that Streep is in! I think her performance in FFJ is heartbreakingly funny and not as easy to do as everyone thinks. She is doing something quite difficult and, because she is Streep, makes it look easy.
Also the movie comes out on Blu-Ray Dec. 13 - during prime voting season and she will earn her 30th Golden Globe nomination ( losing to Stone)
I think Streep has a better shot at the nomination than Adams, Chastain,and Hubbert

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjamie

I also believe that if a Hugh Grant nomination in supporting actor happens that Streep in Best Actress will happen as well.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjamie

I think that if we have...

FIVE black Actors nominated (Denzel, Viola, Ali, Harris and Taraji / Rhodes)
ONE brazilian actress nominated (Braga)
ONE french actress nominated (Huppert)
THREE british actors nominated (Garfield, Neeson, Grant)
ONE Japanese actor nominated (Asano)
ONE israeli actress nominated (Portman)

Maybe we Will have something like REAL LIFE* represented on that party in the Dolby Theater.

*People of different part of the world Who make part of our Life.

Laat time we saw something like that was the 2004 nominees (The Return of the King year)

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJon

There are several examples of actors' and actresses' winning Tonys and Oscars for the same role, but has anyone won a lead Tony and a supporting Oscar (or vice versa) for the same role? That would be an interesting trivia factoid.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

I wish Sandra Huller had a shot. Best performance of the year in any category, in the best film if the year.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I know we're supposed to oppose category fraud, but if this means Annette Bening has an actual shot of finally winning I'm so down for this demotion! Imagine the odds––two actress in their 50s winning Oscars in the same year. Plus, look how beautiful this looks:

Academy Award Winner Annette Bening
Academy Award Winner Viola Davis

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

well in this case its not so much impenetrable as Viola choosing not to penetrate it. I have little doubt she'd be nominated in lead if she campaigned that way.

Impenetrable for a nonwhite actress to win again in the category.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Either case she might get nominated, but a win is far more likely in supporting. Now can we campaign for Annette Bening in lead?

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

At least when Patricia Arquette won the Oscar in September the movie was out.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Is it possible that academy voters bump her up at the last minute like they did with Kate Winslet in The Reader (who campaigned supporting for all the critics prizes and SAG awards)? I know their situations are vastly different from one another (reported screen time, overdue status, Winslet also had her Revolutionary Road lead actress campaign confusing things), but it's an example of it happening before... Though the academy has since changed their stance on what constitutes a supporting performance if Vikander and Mara last year (among many other examples) are to go off of.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRene

I agree that so much depends on how Fences is received when it's actually screened. Everyone is just guessing at the moment. I don't mind Viola going for supporting because Denzel may have made the movie more about his character (I definitely got that vibe from the trailer, which seemed to reflect a lot of actor-director-self-love).

Although she will not cry if she is omitted, I kind of also think Streep may get in, because Florence Foster Jenkins is more memorable and was more widely seen than many of these other smaller films. It actually is a really funny movie. The Academy likes stars and clustering nominations (e.g., Hugh Grant and Meryl Streep). Maybe Amy Adams is cut out because she has two competing films. My predictions for Oscar would be Adams or Negga, Bening, Portman, Stone, Streep. Huppert in a French rape "comedy" is just not going to fly high with Oscar voters this year. This is a year where I appreciate the Golden Globes because at least 10 women get nominated for "best actress" in a movie (between drama and musical/comedy). Good luck ladies!

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJono

Alicia won last year based on category fraud and a lot here picked a bone with that. I suspect now that Viola is in the same boat (of course the movie hasn't been screened so there's a possibility she's actually supporting), everyone seems to cut her all the slack even cheering her on to a win. Talk about double standards.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPete

Streep becomes a default nominee when Best Actress is weak, in my opinion. The only other feasible nominee (by precursor attention) in 2013 was Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks, and I don't think Streep pushed her out, but Amy Adams and the late surge of American Hustle did. Florence Foster Jenkins is probably her most critically acclaimed performance since The Iron Lady, but with the dearth of strong actress possibilities (and strong narratives), I could easily see her passed over. I think Globe and probably SAG are sure things though.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

I'm sad that she won't be in Best Actress. Even if it really is supporting, she's a big enough of a star that she could've gone lead. And had a shot at winning. Winning in supporting seems inevitable now, so there's that. It just doesn't really feel right.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

a) Streep could've been left out in 2014 for Into the Woods - Jessica Chastain and Renee Russo certainly have some precursor heat.

b) The most "defaulty" of Streep's nominations, arguably, was Music of the Heart. And I think that one happened because of Mirimax and the idea of getting Meryl her 12th nomination, matching the record. I can imagine the same thing happening to get 20.

c) I'm intrigued by the idea of Bening as a lock - I'm really curious if A24 does multiple film campaigning well. Don't get it, myself, but I think she's a hugely overrated actress and the late release really doesn't do her any favours

d) I really dislike Loving and will be made if Negga beats out Huppert/Streep/Braga for a nomination. Such a nothing role in a nothing film.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Arkaan--totally agree with you about Bening being massively overrated. I think she's perfectly adequate most of the time, but I've never been in love with a performance of hers, and at her worst she's quite shrill and hollow (American Beauty.)

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike

@mareko -it has happened and it's a strange one: yul bryner won lead at the oscars, featured [supporting] at the tonys for the king and i

the year viola won lead at the tonys she also won as featured at the drama desk awards

i imagine emma stone wrote her a thank you note along the lines of "you is kind, you is smart, we is going to win"

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Arkaan, I'm totally with you on Ruth's performance in Loving. It was serviceable at best. I hope OscarSoWhite will not be cited if she's left out of the BA race. Same thing with Will Smith in Concussion - I don't agree it's even a snub. Don't get me wrong - I would love to see more diversity in the nominations (Asians, Latinos other foreigners especially) but let's not cite racial reasons for unworthy performances that didn't make it to the last 5.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPete

Your last point about August Wilson is truly bizarre. Wilson spent decades trying to get a movie version of Fences made, and even rejected—with screenplay in hand—a handful of directors through various iterations of production. Scott Rudin sent Denzel Washington a copy of "Wilson's screenplay adaptation of his own play" which is how this posthumous production got off the ground. Sure, there must've been tweaks, but the man who wrote the story and drafted the adaptation on which the film is based is *certainly* as worthy of recognition as Denzel and Kushner.

You speculate in disbelief that an adaptation "sat in a drawer for ten years" as if that's impossible. That is basically exactly what happened. The sources you're questioning aren't lying to you. There's a pretty rich public record of information to consult about just how involved Wilson *was* in adapting the play for the screen.

Your rant is particularly unseemly given that conditions in Hollywood weren't right in August Wilson's lifetime to bring his vision—for a screenplay, which he did adapt—to the screen. If it wasn't 100 percent camera-ready for production 10 years after his death, I suppose that's his fault for dying?

"As far as we know that is [underline]not[underline] true"

That would be a weird thing to get mad about even if you had the facts straight.

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W.

I'm having both Davis and Negga in both lead and supporting predictions.

DAVIS - the Academy could bump up an actress to lead even with supporting campaign, just like Kate Winslet (The Reader) and Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider).
NEGGA - they could demote her to supporting, the same way they did to Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind (add to fact that there are bigger names in Best Actress).

But of course, just look at last year: Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara were retained in supporting for obvious lead roles. Meanwhile Felicity Jones got a best actress nomination despite having a very similarly structured role with Vikander (who went supporting).

October 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

Of course she's going supporting. Why? Because she's been down this road before: Co-starring in an international box office smash and receiving some of the greatest reviews of her career couldn't clinch it for her. So I don't blame her. She's playing the hand she has been dealt and keeping her eye on the bigger prize: the EGOT. #GoViola

Also, a hat tip to Hayden W. regarding your comments about August Wilson. Really disrespectful to both his legacy as one of America's greatest playwrights and the struggle he went through in Hollywood.

October 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNewMoonSon

20th Century Women & Elle are highly unlikely to catch up with Florence Foster Jenkins at the Box Office. Even post-ceremony.

Streep is very much in the top 5 for now!

If Viola is officially doing category fraud then I'd say we have:

*Amy Adams, Arrival
*Emma Stone, La La Land
*Natalie Portman Jackie
*Ruth Nega, Loving
Streep / Bening / Hupert

I very openly fear The Lawrence. Passengers could end up being moderately critically acclaimed and if that happens, it's premature birth for one of the ladies listed above!

Chastain's movie could be a Spotlight of sorts.

A very, very competitive year. No wonder Viola's downgrading. She wants that Oscar!

October 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

@ cal roth

So you've said, but no on at least two counts.

October 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

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