It’s Judi Dench’s year, Hollywood insiders hint
Jack Malvern and Rhys Blakely
Published at 12:01AM, January 17 2014 Source
Dame Judi Dench would be too modest to admit it but she stands a good chance of winning her first Oscar as Best Actress this year, after Harvey Weinstein decided to give her the backing of his formidable lobbying skills.
Dench, who won her only Oscar for her supporting role in Shakespeare in Love in 1998, is not the bookies’ favourite to win the prize for her performance in the title role of Philomena but advertisements mentioning the low-budget British drama’s four nominations, including one for Best Picture, have already appeared in the Hollywood trade press.
Industry sources suggested that Weinstein, the film’s distributor, “thinks that this is Judi’s year”.
Dench, whose biggest rivals in the leading actress category are Cate Blanchett for her role in Blue Jasmine and Amy Adams in American Hustle, responded to her nomination yesterday from India, where she is filming the sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
“This is just the loveliest news,” she said. “I’m so happy for everybody involved and so proud to have been part of the wonderful experience that Philomena has been.”
Her co-star, Steve Coogan, who was named as a producer in the Best Film category and as a co-writer for Best Adapted Screenplay, said that his nominations struck him as extremely unlikely.
“I failed my English exams a bunch of times,” he told Variety. “To have a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination [with Jeff Pope] is bizarre. I was a lazy guy at school. I didn’t want to do any writing. Sometimes you find a story you want to tell.”
The brightest hope for British success at the Oscars on March 2 may be Steve McQueen, whose film 12 Years a Slave secured nine nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and mentions in three of the four acting categories, for Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o. If McQueen, 44, emerges victorious in the director category, he would be the first black person to do so.
The producers behind the film — who include Brad Pitt — hope that recognition at the Oscars will provide a boost at the box office.
Outside America, the film has made only $13 million (£8 million), which its makers believe is partly the result of prejudice. The reluctance of overseas audiences to watch black actors still means that Hollywood is reluctant to cast them, a producer said privately.
American Hustle and Gravity led the race for the number of nominations with ten apiece, offering more opportunities for British success. Christian Bale’s role as a conman in American Hustle earned him a place in the Best Actor category, while Gravity’s British producer and crew won nominations for Best Picture as well as Visual Effects.
Other British contenders include Sally Hawkins, who was named in the Supporting Actress category for her first role as an American when she play Ginger in Woody Allen’s drama-comedy Blue Jasmine.
The nominees for Best Documentary include Dirty Wars, which takes as its jumping-off point a story broken in The Times by Jerome Starkey and Jeremy Kelly about a night raid by American forces in the village of Khataba, Afghanistan.
Surprise omissions from the shortlists were Robert Redford, whose solo performance in All is Lost had been widely tipped, Tom Hanks, for his role in Captain Phillips, and James Gandolfini, who might have received a posthumous nomination for his turn in the romantic comedy, Enough Said. Emma Thompson, who can usually depend on her popularity among voters, was not recognised for her role as the author of Mary Poppins in Saving Mr Banks.
Neil Corbould, the visual effects supervisor for Gravity, who was nominated for inventing new ways in which to suspend Sandra Bullock and George Clooney so that they would appear to be floating in space, said that the glory of winning an Oscar did have one drawback. “When you win one,” he said, “people don’t hire you because they think you are too expensive.”
Gosh I hope so!