Andrea Riseborough has finally broken her silence about her controversial Oscar nomination and grassroots campaign for To Leslie.
In a profile released by The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, the Birdman actress opened up about Cate Blanchett’s endorsement, struggles with the film’s distribution, and how the To Leslie team kicked off a self-funded campaign that led to her nomination. Riseborough also commented on the backlash she’s received, after folks accused the nod of being responsible for nudging out two Black actresses—The Woman King’s Viola Davis and Till’s Danielle Deadwyler—who were in the running for the award.
“It not only makes sense that this conversation [about race and privilege] would be sparked, but it is necessary,” Riseborough said. “The film industry is abhorrently unequal in terms of opportunity. I’m mindful not to speak for the experience of other people because they are better placed to speak, and I want to listen.”
It’s worth noting that the above quote was written in an email, following the in-person conversation THR had with Riseborough in London. The actress hesitated to answer questions about “the awards campaign or the conversations about race and privilege it’s sparking” in-person, opting to send a written message after the fact.
Riseborough began garnering traction for her performance in To Leslie, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2022 and went on to earn under $30,000 at the box office, in January. Big-name Hollywood stars like Edward Norton and Helen Hunt shouted out the film on social media leading up to the Oscars nominations announcement late last month.
The celebs rallied around Riseborough quickly, hosting screenings of the film in her honor—Kate Winslet hosted a Q+A, while Jennifer Aniston held a screening in her home. When Cate Blanchett accepted her Critics Choice Award for Tár in January, ahead of the Oscar noms, she shouted out Riseborough as another actress deserving of the award.
“I almost choked,” Riseborough said of Blanchett’s praise. “It was just so generous and flabbergasting. I’m amazed she didn’t call me Angela. I wouldn’t have blamed her. I didn’t think she knew me from Adam.”
But that celebrity help may not have come totally out of left field. As campaign season teed up this winter, Riseborough actually hired Shelter PR, a company that began this “grassroots” campaign. Director Michael Morris and Riseborough also covered the $20,000 fee to screen the film on the Academy’s website. Then, Morris and his actress wife Mary McCormack (The West Wing), aided by Riseborough’s manager Jason Weinberg, sent a flurry of emails to other actors that they believed could aid in the campaign.
“We think you will love it,” read one email from McCormack. “We feel so strongly about beautiful films being seen whether or not they have millions and millions to spend on publicity.”
To Leslie needed the help—few had seen the film, thanks to the “awful” distributor, co-star Marc Maron told THR. “It’s always disappointing when traction is not capitalized on,” said Riseborough of the distribution struggles.
Momentum Pictures holds the U.K. and American distribution rights to the film. Maron said Momentum is to blame for botching the awards submission process, spurring the Leslie team to take it into its own hands. No one in the ensemble was submitted for the SAG Awards or the Golden Globes, Maron said, nor was Morris submitted for the Directors Guild awards. Only Riseborough has been nominated.
“So in light of that, you know, when I saw this grassroots thing happen, and then it delivered her this nomination, I was thrilled,” Maron said. “I was thrilled for her, and I was thrilled for the movie. It’s upsetting in retrospect that this experience has to be so loaded and toxic and challenged.”
He continued: “Andrea, she’s in it for the work, dude. I mean, if that’s not clear from this woman’s career — that she’s the real deal and she does it for the work — then you’re not looking at her correctly. But now that she’s targeted and at the center of this fake controversy, I hope it works in her favor.”
Maron argued that if the Academy plans to fix the rules surrounding social media campaigns, they ought to have the addendums ready for next year’s Oscars rather than this year. Riseborough, on the other hand, is still struggling on how to make the awards more inclusive.
“Awards campaigning is as acerbically exclusive as it has always been,” Riseborough said. “I do not yet know which measures will best encourage meritocracy. I’ve been working toward discovering them and will continue to.”