Penn going supporting for ‘Fair Game?’

Posted by · 12:53 pm · October 27th, 2010

Scott Feinberg is reporting that Sean Penn, who gives a rather wonderful performance in Doug Liman’s “Fair Game” with much more meat on its bones than Naomi Watts’s somewhat internalized work, will be pushed in the supporting category rather than lead.

Uh…why?  First and foremost, I’d consider this a lead performance, but whatever, category fraud happens all the time and there are probably multiple perspectives to be had on this particular role.  But I just wrote about the lead actor category Monday and noted that there is some softness outside of the generally agreed upon three (Colin Firth, James Franco and Jeff Bridges).  The opportunity is ripe.

Meanwhile, the supporting actor category seems to be settling in.  I feel like I’ve had the same five checked off for a month or two now.  Where are the cracks in that armor?  How does one look at that category and think it’s an easier climb?

Alright, so if anyone is really weak I’d say it’s Sam Rockwell who, despite his award at Monday night’s Hollywood Awards Gala, gives a performance in a film that didn’t exactly impress critics.  And Fox Searchlight’s advertising scheme doesn’t yet look to include a considerable push for “Conviction” (or “Never Let Me Go,” for that matter).  So maybe there’s a chance he falls out, but really, the lead actor category is where you want to make that move, I think.

It’s great work from Penn and I imagine Summit thinks this is the best way to find room to navigate this season.  But, well…I’m skeptical.  But what do I know?

[Photo: Summit Entertainment]

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37 responses so far

  • 1 10-27-2010 at 1:00 pm

    qwiggles said...

    What a terrible promo still.

  • 2 10-27-2010 at 1:05 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...


  • 3 10-27-2010 at 1:14 pm

    red_wine said...

    What if Bale misses? He’s usually pretty mediocre so I don’t see any reason to expect any better this time around. (I know there have been some screening reviews praising him but we all know where they can often lead.)

  • 4 10-27-2010 at 1:25 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “He’s usually pretty mediocre…”

    This is a minority opinion.

  • 5 10-27-2010 at 1:32 pm

    James said...

    That’s cool. I shouldn’t be basing my opinion on one clip, but Penn did come off a bit more…I don’t know comfortable than Watts(whom I usually like given the right role).

    The more we draw closer to the release of The Fighter the more I’m looking forward to it. I’m just curious if it fits the pattern of the somewhat dull first trailer or the far more impressive unnerving trailer of the 2nd. I think this is really is Bale’s shot at a nom. You look at people like him, Ruffalo, Rockwell, and these are guys who have built an impressive body of work that deserves recognition.

  • 6 10-27-2010 at 1:36 pm

    Ibad said...

    If Rockwell falls, I think Damon is ready to pounce on that spot for True Grit.

  • 7 10-27-2010 at 1:40 pm

    Princess of Peace said...

    Most interesting. Regarding Best Actor I don’t think that Bridges is a given. In fact, I don’t even think he will be nominated. I love him but I saw the trailer and there were similarities in his mannerisms to his award winning performance in Crazy Heart.

  • 8 10-27-2010 at 2:03 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    “This is a minority opinion.”

    That’s an assumption on your part.

  • 9 10-27-2010 at 2:04 pm

    Peter said...

    Speaking of supporting actors, I really cannot emphisize how serious and passionate I am about the movie I am about to mention. I saw “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” a few days ago and it is absolutely one of the best movies I have seen all year. I was waiting for the right moment to highlight what I consider to be the year’s most unjustly ignored film.

    I admit that I am of very high opinion of Allen in general. That said, though I enjoyed it, you won’t see me starting FYC Oscar campaigns for “Scoop”. “YWMATDS” is a completely different story. Even within Allen’s work it is a standout. I could make a good argument that it is a stronger film than ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’, even actingwise to which I will get in a moment.

    What struck me so much about the film from the very beginning is how sharply it is put together. From Directing to editing to writing, everything is sharp, sharp, sharp. There isn’t a single simple or uninteresting shot in the entire film. It is an absolute pleasure to watch. What some critics, who are seemingly taking everything that comes their way from Allen have missed, is how perceptive and well written the movie really is. And there is no “Woody Allen” character anywhere to be found.

    And what performances, too. In a perfect world, Anthony Hopkins would be a frontrunner in a supporting category for he absolutely kills in the film. Never misses a single comic opportunity for his character all the while making it look completely belivable. Lucy Punch, too, I think, deserves props for playing a bimbo with amazing gusto. The scene where she gets up from the chair and starts dancing is the single funniest thing I have seen all year. Brolin is also very, very good. And so is, the actress who plays Naomi Watts reincarnation obsessed mother.

    A very, very good film.

  • 10 10-27-2010 at 2:12 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Not really, /3rtfu11, but I’m not gonna fight you on it. I just think it’s silly to say that a recognized talent shouldn’t be considered a decent bet just because you have a marginalized reaction to his work. You’re welcome to that viewpoint, obviously, but why try to paint everything with that brush?

  • 11 10-27-2010 at 2:25 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Well, you know me, I hate category fraud so…boo Penn and Summit!

  • 12 10-27-2010 at 2:27 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    `Category Fraud` should be added as a seperate tag for posts. I´m sure we´ll see it much more this season…

  • 13 10-27-2010 at 2:34 pm

    Graysmith said...

    Boo Penn? I highly doubt he’s behind any of this, or even cares, given his past attitude towards awards. He may have toned that down in his later years, but I can’t imagine he’d be calling up Summit demanding he be pushed into supporting because he wants another Oscar nomination so badly.

    Anyway, having not seen the film it’s impossible to say how much of a fraud this would be. In a way I welcome another contender in the supporting categories since they’re both so weak this year.. So even if it is a bit of a fraud, it might help beef things up where it’s more needed.

  • 14 10-27-2010 at 2:39 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    I’m not entirely sure how these campaigns work, but I can’t imagine Sean Penn having no power over them. Couldn’t he insist that he be pushed for supporting where he belongs? In fact, I think Michael Sheen did that in the Oscar campaign for Frost/Nixon…

    P.S. — Yeah, yeah, I know he didn’t make it because of that. But at least he competed honestly, right?

  • 15 10-27-2010 at 2:56 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Actually, as I understand it, Sheen and his team insisted on lead.

  • 16 10-27-2010 at 3:00 pm

    gioconda said...

    About Bale.

    “He’s usually pretty mediocre…”
    “This is a minority opinion.”

    If so, then I’m part of ” that” minority … I find there is nothing special about his past performances.

  • 17 10-27-2010 at 3:06 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Kris, while I absolutely agree that the 5 you have listed in supporting could very well be the 5 (they are my 5 for now, too. And I’m crossing fingers for ‘The Way Back’ peeps) ……. nothing is set in stone, yet. Like, nothin’.

    No precursors, no SAG, etc.. For all we know, only 2 of the 5 will be getting most of the noms. All that said, I completely agree, seems strange to put Penn in supporting.

  • 18 10-27-2010 at 3:49 pm

    Graysmith said...


    I think in most cases the actors have a say in it, but in this particular case knowing how little Penn has cared about awards in the past I really, really don’t see him caring either which way. I’m sure he was asked before the decision was made, but I don’t think he particularly gives a crap about it.

  • 19 10-27-2010 at 3:57 pm

    Silencio said...

    I think it’s more along the lines that it’s too soon to give Penn a 3rd Oscar. Especially in lead.

  • 20 10-27-2010 at 4:04 pm

    Patriotsfan said...

    I just hope that Jessie Eisenberg gets a nomination in the leading category. If Robert Duvall gets nominated for his typical “quiet-thoughtful-old-man” performance in the extremely over-rated Get Low, and Eisenberg doesn’t get nominated for his captivating performance in The Social Network, I’m going to be disappointed. Just because an actor is old and gave good performances in the past, doesn’t mean they should get a nomination over a younger actor who gave a better performance. Unfortunately, the history of the Oscars shows that the Academy disagrees with me.

  • 21 10-27-2010 at 4:16 pm

    Michael said...

    I don’t think Christian Bale is mediocre (I quite like him in a lot of things) but I don’t see where the industry has gone out of there way to recognize his talents (especially after his meltdown on the Terminator set.) He has great potential but comes across from time to time in the press as a very standoff-ish person. I think his work speaks for itself and will one day definitely win an Oscar, but for the most part he has remained under-the-radar in terms of industry recognition (although I definitely feel he is an underrated actor and has given award worth performances in many films that went mostly unnoticed.)

  • 22 10-27-2010 at 4:53 pm

    Eric said...

    Well, I still want Ed Harris to get in, so you’re right, Penn should go leading and perhaps bump out Duvall.

  • 23 10-27-2010 at 4:56 pm

    j said...

    It’s up to 84 on BFCA which is higher than Critics’ Choice pick Secretariat, or Penn’s 3rd nommed role.

  • 24 10-27-2010 at 5:28 pm

    matsunaga said...

    From Kris’ prediction for Best Actor, if he will campaign for that category, he can bump either Jeff Bridges or Ryan Gosling… Firth and Duvall for me gave nomination worthy performances, I haven’t seen 127 Hours, but I really like Franco on the trailer so I think he’ll be good as well…

    Either way, given if Penn gets nominated, I don’t think he’ll win because he just won 2 years ago… Not that it matters… I’m still looking forward for hi ‘Fair Game’ performance..

  • 25 10-27-2010 at 5:47 pm

    mikhael said...

    agree to what Patriotsfan said.

  • 26 10-27-2010 at 6:20 pm

    Voland said...

    My guess is that Sean Penn won’t get nominated at all.

  • 27 10-27-2010 at 6:38 pm

    Drew said...

    I like Bale and admire the amount of dedication he has towards his art form, but I also think that he a very insecure person which is why he buries himself in his craft out of fear. Despite my admiration, I think he’s a little too dedicated at times. There are times where his intense and frightenning transformations seem like he’s trying to make-up for a level of talent that he believes he doesn’t have. And that can lead to some very over-wrought and over-indulgent performances and character choices that distract me from what’s going on or the potential he can have with a role.

    I’m still very excited to see the Fighter and I’m hoping that he can recieve praise and accolades if they are merrited.

  • 28 10-27-2010 at 7:01 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    Christian Bale strains himself thin into every dramatic performance he’s had as an adult. He wants desperately to be seen as a chameleon actor but he’s just wooden and mannered.

  • 29 10-27-2010 at 7:11 pm

    qwiggles said...

    Oh, I didn’t mean “what a terrible promo still you’ve selected” — just that the actual still is baffling. Reminds me of this one: And, to a lesser extent…

  • 30 10-27-2010 at 8:09 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Oh dammit, I just realized my typo! I meant to say “insist that he be pushed for LEAD where he belongs?”

    I’m the idiot of the day….

  • 31 10-27-2010 at 8:12 pm

    Glenn said...

    I agree with Kris that Penn gives a lead performance, but it would feel strange seeing him nominated without Watts. It feels like both or neither, and I’m going with neither since I doubt the film can stand out amongst the crowd.

  • 32 10-27-2010 at 11:58 pm

    Rachel said...

    I haven’t seen it, but going by the trailers, I thought it was a supporting performance. So much so, that I put him in my supporting predictions over at

  • 33 10-28-2010 at 1:12 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    My guess is Fair Game as a whole won’t get nominated at all. Perhaps I’ll change my mind when I see it next week orso but It’s not looking very bright at the moment.

  • 34 10-28-2010 at 2:33 am

    gioconda said...

    3rtfu11 said… “He wants desperately to be seen as a chameleon actor but he’s just wooden and mannered.”

    Exactely. I also find his acting wooden and un-natural. He transforms himself phisically for some roles but fails to convey his characters emotions properly, in my opinion.

  • 35 10-28-2010 at 9:48 am

    Ben M. said...

    To be honest, outside of Rush and Ruffalo I don’t think supporting actor is that locked in either. Sure, Bale looks like a strong contender but until more people see his film you never know, while I expect Garfield to get in mainly because of his movie and rising profile.

    Granted I haven’t seen Conviction but it doesn’t seem like the film is generating a ton of talk, and while Rockwell’s performance got solid reviews they are not the breathless kind that would ensure he gets in even if the film goes down (frankly, I think The Town’s chances may be a little underrated and am predicting Renner to take this slot). Where it stands now, I feel the fifth slot is wide open, and Bale or Garfield could also miss.

  • 36 10-28-2010 at 10:42 am

    Billy Buddusky said...

    Guys, everyone else in the Supporting Actor category is really just fighting for a good seat to watch Geoffrey Rush go up and get the award. This category is over.