The SAG-AFTRA strike is over, and it only took four minutes and 46 seconds after the news broke to receive an interview pitch for an actor from a publicist.
That’s because strategists and publicists for the top movies from studios and streamers have been sitting on their hands, waiting for their actors to promote their films that are in the conversation for Oscar attention. The news of SAG-AFTRA making a deal rippled throughout the ecosystem of consultants hired to bring their clients and stars awards recognition.
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Some independent productions and companies such as A24 and Neon were able to make do thanks to interim agreements for movies like Celine Song’s “Past Lives” and Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall.” However, the floodgates have now opened, and big-spending streamers like Apple and Netflix, alongside legacy studios like Universal Pictures and Warner Bros., will be trotting out their contending stars to face industry voters, walk splashy red carpets and speak to their personal and passionate projects.
“Thank fucking God,” one senior awards publicist shares excitedly with Variety. “We have so many ideas we want to implement, but we need our actors to execute them. Now, we’re ready to go to work.”
Another publicist says they haven’t slept since the news broke last night. They’ve been busy answering phone calls and e-mails from varying talents, studio executives and journalists about the availability of their actors: “We have to find a way to turn the lights on in a house that’s been abandoned, and that’s hard to figure out. I’m not complaining; I’ll take this over anything we’ve been dealing with for six months.”
As Hollywood attempts to get productions and schedules going again, some of this year’s biggest contenders will likely be the most available in these first few weeks. For a movie like Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” the awards campaign should be vastly different with stars Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr. and Emily Blunt sitting on Q&A panels, able to speak to the artistry of their director. It also helps ensure seats are filled at these screenings, where voters are invited.
Veteran filmmaker Martin Scorsese has been holding the torch for “Killers of the Flower Moon” for the past few months, but the spirit of his movie will elevate when he’s joined by A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio and breakout performer Lily Gladstone.
There are other breakout and beloved actors that know how to work a room, and it’s possible their nomination chances could grow once they’re allowed to be interviewed. Some of those include Colman Domingo (“Rustin”), Charles Melton (“May December”), and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (“The Holdovers”).
What about those who have not been known for participating during awards season?
Adam Driver, whose film “Ferrari” from Michael Mann had an interim agreement, has only been seen at the Venice and New York Film Festivals so far. Ahead of the film’s opening in December, we should expect to see more of him. However, with a stacked best actor race ahead with the likes of Bradley Cooper (“Maestro”) and Jeffrey Wright (“American Fiction”), it may be harder for him to break into the fray.
And if you thought “Barbie” was noisy when it opened, which happened ahead of the starts of the SAG-AFTRA strike, wait until Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling begin working the circuit, further cementing their places in a race where Barbenheimer will once again be the buzzword.
People may be familiar with the butterfly effect, the theory that a slight change can drastically affect the future. Looking back at the 2008 WGA strike, it’s easy to question how it affected the awards season. The Golden Globes were canceled and replaced by an hour-long press conference. Would a moment hearing Cate Blanchett deliver a supporting actress-winning speech for “I’m Not There” have given her the edge to beat Tilda Swinton for “Michael Clayton?” Would the image of “Atonement” taking home best picture (drama) instead of presumed frontrunner “No Country for Old Men” make that race even more competitive?
We’ll never know if this long Hollywood shutdown changed the course of awards season, but one thing is clear: the industry is thrilled to be back
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