A Timeline of Andrea Riseborough's Oscar Nomination Controversy

Here's a breakdown of the controversy surrounding Andrea Riseborough's Best Actress Oscar nomination for her lead role in the film To Leslie, including what she's has said about it

Andrea Riseborough, To Leslie
Photo: Momentum Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

In typical Academy Award fashion, the 2023 nominations list came with some surprises — but this year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' decisions sparked controversy as well.

Specifically, eyebrows were raised with Andrea Riseborough's nod in the Best Actress category for her lead role in To Leslie, an independent film helmed by longtime television producer and director Michael Morris (Better Call Saul) in his feature film directorial debut.

Her nomination was the anticipated zinger that fans, critics and even Riseborough didn't see coming — in part due to her various snubs at award shows prior, including the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards. The conversation around the actress' nod was further heightened due to the highly publicized, star-studded campaigning in the months leading up to the Academy voting.

When To Leslie premiered at SXSW in March 2022, the independent film didn't immediately receive as much attention. It was only after stars such as Jennifer Anniston, Charlize Theron and Gwyneth Paltrow (to name a few) outwardly displayed their support by hosting screenings of the film and raved about Riseborough on social media that it began to receive critical acclaim.

"Even with such high praise, making a splash with low-budget indie features, especially during a crowded awards season, has always been a challenge, which is why the support from bold-faced names means so much," Morris told The Hollywood Reporter.

A few days after the nominations were announced, the Academy released a statement saying that a review of the campaign procedures around this year's nominees would be conducted. At the time, the announcement didn't mention To Leslie or Riseborough by name.

Ahead of the 2023 Oscars on March 12, here's a timeline of the controversy involving Riseborough and her To Leslie campaigning in the Best Actress category.

March 12, 2022: To Leslie makes its world premiere at SXSW

Andrea Riseborough, To Leslie
Momentum Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

To Leslie tells the story of a single mother in Texas who "wins the lottery and squanders it just as fast," leading her to seek redemption years later, according to a synopsis shared by the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Following To Leslie's world premiere at SXSW on March 12, the independent film was slow in gaining attention. In hindsight, Riseborough explained to Deadline that "there was a quiet lull" after SXSW.

"Then slowly, as the film had a few screenings elsewhere — including at Raindance, which was a big deal because we hadn't had a release in the U.K. — we found people were starting to talk about it," she continued. "But it didn't happen right away."

Oct. 25, 2022: Andrea Riseborough is snubbed by the Gotham Awards

Nominations were announced for the 2022 Gotham Awards on Oct. 25, a ceremony that specifically highlights independent television series and movies. Risenborough was not one of the 10 recipients to earn an outstanding lead performance category.

Instead, nominees included Cate Blanchett in Tár, Dale Dickey in A Love Song, Colin Farrell in After Yang, Brendan Fraser in The Whale and Danielle Deadwyler in Till — with the latter eventually taking home the win at the November 2022 ceremony.

Nov. 11, 2022: Charlize Theron hosts a To Leslie screening

Charlize Theron
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Charlize Theron was one of the first celebrities to host a To Leslie screening in November at the Creative Arts Agency in Century City, Los Angeles. "It's the kind of movie that stays in your mind. It stays in your bones. [It] even stays in your skin," Theron said, introducing To Leslie as a throwback to indie movies of the '70s.

Edward Norton and Jennifer Aniston contributed to the support of the film later that month, opening their homes for private screenings, according to the Los Angeles Times. The over-pouring amount of celebrity-backed support for To Leslie eventually began to raise eyebrows.

IndieWire learned from insiders that "word of mouth began roiling for SXSW premiere To Leslie back in October, when Charlize Theron and Ed Norton came on board to help with screenings after a few well-placed calls."

Nov. 22, 2022: Andrea Riseborough receives an Independent Spirit Award nomination

Following the celebrity-hosted screenings, Riseborough was one of 10 performers nominated in the best lead performance category for the Independent Spirit Awards in November. This recognition marked the actress' first precursor attention ahead of the Oscars.

Dec. 12, 2022: Andrea Riseborough is snubbed by the Golden Globes

Andrea Riseborough, Allison Janney, To Leslie
Momentum Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

When Golden Globe nominations were announced on Dec. 12, Riseborough was not among the five actresses listed in the best actress (drama) category. Those who earned nods included Blanchett (Tar), Olivia Colman (Empire of Light), Viola Davis (The Woman King), Ana de Armas (Blonde) and Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans).

Dec. 14, 2022: Andrea Riseborough is snubbed by the Critics Choice Awards

Two days later, the nominations for the Critics Choice Awards were announced, of which Riseborough was snubbed once again in the best actress category. Those who earned nods included Blanchett (Tár), Davis (The Woman King), Deadwyler (Till), Margot Robbie (Babylon), Williams (The Fabelmans) and Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once).

Dec. 14, 2022: Andrea Riseborough receives a Chicago Film Critics Association nomination

After several award show snubs, Riseborough earned her second precursor attention when the Chicago Film Critics Association nominated her for best actress alongside Blanchett, de Armas, Mia Goth and Yeoh — though she lost to Blanchett, who took home the win for Tár.

Jan. 10, 2023: Gwyneth Paltrow hosts a To Leslie screening

Gwyneth Paltrow and Edward Norton
Charley Gallay/Getty, Pablo Cuadra/WireImage

Gwyneth Paltrow joined the likes of Aniston and Theron, hosting a screening of To Leslie on Jan. 10, after which she penned a rave review on her Instagram.

"I am stunned by all of the performances. Andrea should win every award there is and all the ones that haven't been invented yet," she captioned her post in part. The positive film review came after stars such as Norton also took to the social media platform to praise the film.

"For those interested in really great acting I'll share that Andrea Riseborough's portrayal in 'To Leslie' just knocked me sideways," he wrote. "It's about the most fully committed, emotionally deep, physically harrowing performance I've seen in a while."

Jan. 11, 2023: Andrea Riseborough is snubbed at the SAG Awards

Riseborough saw another major award show snub when she failed to receive a nod in the SAG Award's best actress category.

Jan. 12, 2023: The Academy begins voting for award nominations

Owen Teague, To Leslie
Momentum Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

The same day that the Academy began its voting, To Leslie's director Morris opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about his reasons for generating support. "We can't even afford an ad," he began.

"We live or die by people's reactions to the film," Morris added of the independent movie's word-of-mouth appeal. "We've been so under the radar and our only strategy has been to get people to see the film. I don't want it to become another title in the library. I want it to be seen," he concluded.

And that it has! The outlet noted the star-studded campaigning To Leslie received in the weeks prior to the Oscar voting commencement on Jan. 12, such as the screenings hosted by celebrities and the positively vocal posts on social media by stars.

Celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston called the film "beautiful," Zooey Deschanel deemed it an "amazing movie" and Rosie O'Donnell praised it as a "devastatingly beautiful film." Even Helen Hunt wrote, "If you're out there voting for performances, don't do it till you see Andrea Riseborough."

Jan. 14, 2023: A Reddit user takes note of the same language celebrities used to praise To Leslie

Chatter began on social media, noticing commonalities between the celebrities praising the film. In particular, a Reddit user rounded up a series of their posts and pointed out the stars calling To Leslie "a small film with a giant heart." The trend went viral on Twitter.

Jan. 15, 2023: Cate Blanchett mentions Andrea Riseborough in her Critics Choice Awards acceptance speech

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 15: Cate Blanchett accepts the Best Actress award for "Tár" onstage during the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza on January 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)
Kevin Winter/Getty

To Leslie supporter Blanchett took home the Critics Choice Award for best actress and in her acceptance speech, she cited Riseborough as one of the actresses who deserves the trophy (despite not having earned a nomination.)

Jan. 17, 2023: Academy Award voting closes

On Jan. 17, 2023, at 5 p.m. PT, voting for the 95th Academy Awards nominations closed. Variety's Clayton Davis penned his nomination prediction theory as a result of To Leslie's campaigning efforts.

"Regarding the Andrea Riseborough 'surge' that has occurred in the last couple of days for her work in To Leslie, it's either the most brilliant PR stunt ever performed or something crazy is about to occur with a jaw-dropper in best actress," he began. "I'm inclined to believe the former, with only one mention of her film coming from an AMPAS voter, and it wasn't even an acting branch member."

Jan. 24, 2023: Andrea Riseborough receives an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress

Andrea Riseborough, To Leslie
Momentum Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

In January, the Academy unveiled its nominations for the 2023 Oscars, of which Riseborough received a nod in the Best Actress category. The nomination came as a surprise to many, including the actress herself.

"I'm astounded," Riseborough told Deadline following the nomination announcement. "It's such an unexpected ray of light," she continued. "It was so hard to believe it might ever happen because we really hadn't been in the running for anything else. Even though we had a lot of support, the idea it might actually happen seemed so far away."

Jan. 27, 2023: The Academy says it will investigate the To Leslie campaign

Following the nominations, the Academy released a statement saying it is "conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year's nominees," though it didn't specifically mention To Leslie or Riseborough by name.

Its decision to investigate sparked backlash from actors such as Christina Ricci, who spoke out on the Academy's reconsideration of the nominations — in reference to Riseborough, specifically. "If it's taken away shame on them," the Ricci said in a since-deleted Instagram post.

Jan. 30, 2023: Marc Maron slams Academy for Andrea Riseborough Oscar nod investigation

Marc Maron spoke out in support of his To Leslie costar Riseborough amid the news that a review of the Academy Awards' rules was being conducted for online campaigning following her surprise Best Actress nomination.

"Apparently, the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences or whatever the f--- it is has decided to investigate Andrea Riseborough's grassroots campaign to get her the Oscar nomination," Maron said on his WTF podcast. "Because I guess it so threatens their system to where they're completely bought out by corporate interests in the form of studios."

He continued, "Millions of dollars [are] put into months and months of advertising campaigns, publicity, screenings by large corporate entertainment entities, and Andrea was championed by her peers through a grassroots campaign, which was pushed through by a few actors."

"The Academy is [like], 'Well, we gotta take a look at this. This is not the way it's supposed to work. Independent artists don't deserve the attention of the Academy unless we see how it works exactly. So we're gonna look into this,'" Maron added.

Jan. 31, 2023: The Academy says it will not revoke Andrea Riseborough's Oscar nomination

Andrea Riseborough, To Leslie
Momentum Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Days after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that a review was being conducted to determine the awards' rules for online campaigning, it announced that Riseborough will keep her Best Actress nomination for To Leslie following a grassroots social media campaign from fellow actors.

"Based on concerns that surfaced last week around the To Leslie awards campaign, the Academy began a review into the film's campaigning tactics. The Academy has determined the activity in question does not rise to the level that the film's nomination should be rescinded," Academy CEO Bill Kramer said in a statement. "However, we did discover social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern. These tactics are being addressed with the responsible parties directly."

Feb. 15, 2023: Andrea Riseborough breaks silence on To Leslie nomination debate

Riseborough broke her silence on the controversy regarding her To Leslie nomination when speaking with THR in February, though, noted she'd only address topics surrounding the awards campaign or the conversations about race and privilege it's sparking via email.

The interview began with the actress speaking on her feelings, admitting that she "might understand" the situation "a bit better" once she has "time to process everything."

"It's been confusing," Riseborough said in regards to the mixed response her film has received, especially in light of the controversial nomination. Though, at the same time, noted that "it's wonderful the film's getting seen. I suppose it's a really bright ray of light."

That aside, she admitted to a "very small" distribution budget, later in an email. "But having had success at SXSW and Raindance, having seen the impact of the film on audiences and having had some wonderful reviews, we all tried to contribute in any way we could," she added regarding the campaigning.

Despite the intense publicity, the actress' nomination was a moment of "disbelief" to many, even Riseborough.

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