In Contention

Rudin’s reasoning for Steinfeld in supporting

Posted by · 10:13 am · January 7th, 2011

During last night’s DVD release party for “The Social Network” I ended up in a spirited debate with producer Scott Rudin about the category placement of Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit.” Thankfully it went beyond ideas of the Hollywood star system and strategy and into the philosophy of the narrative itself.

Since it’s been such a point of discussion as of late (most recently in a heated debate between yours truly and Anne Thompson in this week’s Oscar Talk), I thought I’d pass along his reasoning for thinking the performance a supporting one.  I’m sure he wouldn’t mind, so here goes…

In a nutshell, Rudin’s argument (and it’s the smartest one I’ve heard in favor of supporting placement yet), is the idea that the Mattie Ross character is really the impetus for change in Rooster Cogburn’s character.  And, most importantly, she doesn’t have an arc, Rudin says, while Cogburn does.  He changes, she doesn’t.  So Mattie is the instigator.  It’s an interesting point, but I’m still not buying it.


For starters, we begin the movie and end it with Mattie.  Rudin noted that that doesn’t necessarily matter, and I would agree if not for the fact that “True Grit” is her story.  Think of those words: “true grit.”  They’re meant to describe Rooster Cogburn’s ruthless Marshaling ways, but in reality, they define Mattie’s stalwartness, perhaps more definitively.  To say nothing of the fact that without her and her situation, you wouldn’t have a narrative.

To that, Rudin was quick to note examples like “Paper Moon” and “The Last Detail,” that the protagonists of those films are the Ryan O’Neal and Jack Nicholson characters respectively.  No argument there, but Cogburn doesn’t dovetail with those examples, in my opinion.  We get no closure for the character.  And, I’d argue, the arc isn’t that substantial, either.  After all, from the moment Mattie crosses that river, he’s endeared to her.  We see it in his eye when he pulls that sidearm on La Boeuf.  Sure he wavers in the midst of an alcoholic haze here and there, but I don’t think he ever truly switches gears back.  So it’s less of a journey of change for Rooster, I think.  The movie itself is very much about the natural course of things rather than dramatic change and growth.  It’s about the elusiveness of the former, really.

I still think it’s a lead performance through and through, but it was great to spar with Rudin on the matter.  He’s a charming, brilliant guy and he clearly loves movies and what he does.  That’s what I took away from the conversation most of all.

Anyone care to argue with the gentleman?  Have at it.

[Photo: Paramount Pictures]

→ 85 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

85 responses so far

  • 1 1-07-2011 at 10:18 am

    JJ1 said...

    I don’t buy it, either.

    But if I were to think of any way that she’d be Supporting, it would be that she’s very often an observer.

    i.e., at the hangings, in the courtroom, while Bridges & Damon spar, while staking out in the wilderness, Bridge’s shoot-outs, etc..

    But again, I still don’t buy it, and neither did the Brits. Makes one think.

  • 2 1-07-2011 at 10:21 am

    Maxim said...

    Nah. She’s a lead or a co-lead. Every role in history can be marginalized. Hamlet is not a lead, but is there to reveal the bigger, story, setting, etc.

    It’s all BS.

  • 3 1-07-2011 at 10:24 am

    Michael C. said...

    Rudin is conflating the ideas of a leading role and a protagonist. He’s making an argument why Rooster and not Mattie is the protagonist. Buy it or not (I don’t, but it’s an arguable point) Mattie is still a leading role along with Cogburn.

  • 4 1-07-2011 at 10:27 am

    Joe7827 said...

    I could go either way on this. It’s not like it’s clear-cut. Yes, the movie is about Mattie; it begins and ends with Mattie; she’s in almost every scene. But she is no longer the dominating force in the second half of the movie. She is mainly an observer; and honestly, her role for much of the film’s running time is as the child-in-peril, where she literally asks “what do we do?” every few minutes. I could go either way, but what surprises me is that folks can vehemently argue one way or the other.

  • 5 1-07-2011 at 10:29 am

    Al said...

    Since when does a character face changes in order to be consider as a lead?

  • 6 1-07-2011 at 10:36 am

    red_wine said...

    I really don’t think its an OMG category fraud like others are screaming. Supporting is just fine, she wasn’t as impactful as Bridges and she was the observer to this tale and the catalyst, but you can’t say she was the meat of it.

    In essence she is narrating a story about this man she met, and how she met him and what was their parting like.

    Sherlock’s stories are all narrated by and begin and end with Watson. And his being a first person account he is present at the events he describes and even takes part in them. But they are Sherlock’s stories.

    I have no problem at all with Steinfeld being supporting and don’t think its something to cry over either.

  • 7 1-07-2011 at 10:37 am

    Hans said...

    Started reading the article then stopped to ask: is this spoilerific?

  • 8 1-07-2011 at 10:42 am

    Indiana said...

    I would argue with Rudin that we do see how Mattie Ross changes because of her relationship with Rooster; and La Boef: she may be a passive observer for much of the central action of the second act of the storytelling, but the framing device of the film showing Mattie as a grown woman clearly shows how the events of the unfolding story changed and patterned her life afterwards.

  • 9 1-07-2011 at 10:44 am

    Andrew said...

    If we’re defining protagonist as the character who “drives the story” through his/her actions, then there’s no question Mattie Ross is the protagonist (and main character) of True Grit. I would argue it’s Hailee Steinfeld’s age that works against her in the her in the Best Actress category. Timothy Hutton, who was 20 when he won the Supporting Actor Oscar for Ordinary People, was undoubtedly the protagonist of that film but went the supporting route and it paid off. Keisha-Castle Hughes went for lead Actress for Whale Rider and lost. Younger actors just don’t fare well in lead categories. I see this as a smart political move on Steinfeld’s part.

  • 10 1-07-2011 at 10:50 am

    Adam K. said...

    Oh please. Not the dominating force in the second half?? SPOILERS The whole ending is about how she gets bitten by a snake and loses her arm and then waits decades to see Cogburn and make amends… all while narrating. She’s even the one who shoots Josh Brolin. The whole arc is about her learning the cost of revenge and the cycle of violence. Yes, she DOES have an arc.

    There are two leads in this film: Mattie and Cogburn. It’s about their relationship. Period. And I’d argue that placing Cogburn as supporting would be less fraudulent since he’s at least not the narrator of the film, with whom we begin and end the story (but that would never happen, since he’s played by Jeff Bridges). Any rationalization of Mattie Ross as a supporting character is just strategic finagling by the studio. If Steinfeld were 5 years older and/or a bigger star, and/or the supporting race were less crowded than the lead one, there would be no issue here.

    This Rudin argument smacks of reverse rationalization wherein one decides on a course of action and then finds ways to justify it, not unlike the underhanded tactics used in other areas of business or politics. Can anyone seriously say with a straight face that if Mattie Ross were a 20-year-old played by, say, Natalie Portman, that there’d be any discussion of supporting at all? Heck, this is practically the same story as Winter’s Bone, except Jennifer Lawrence is campaigned as a lead because…

    A) her performance is stronger
    B) she’s old enough to vote
    C) she doesn’t star opposite a famous male star

    Really I only blame the critics awards bodies that are legitimizing this, though. Why shouldn’t the studio be dishonest if they can get away with it? Thankfully, the HFPA and BAFTA people aren’t buying it, and I think there’s a significant portion of the academy that won’t either.

  • 11 1-07-2011 at 10:59 am

    Loyal said...

    I would have more respect for Rudin had he just came out and said “Look Kris, I get it. But she stands a really good chance at winning Supporting Actress. I have two horses in this BP race and True Grit’s best and probably only chance is with Hailee. This is all off the record, right?”

  • 12 1-07-2011 at 10:59 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Kinda/sorta, Hans. Nothing plot-wise, really, but it’s worth putting up a warning, I suppose.

  • 13 1-07-2011 at 11:00 am

    red_wine said...

    narrator=/=lead character, not always.

    Take Days Of Heaven, its narrated by the girl but she doesn’t take part in the movie’s central drama. Infact probably everybody in that movie is supporting, the leading character is the landscape. :)

    In Shane, Shane enters the story obliquely and departs it without resolution to his character but he is the protagonist, one does not need to be in every frame to be a protagonist.

    I do agree that in case of True Grit, Cogburn and Mattie both are the ‘lead characters’. But Bridges makes a much bigger impact according to me and therefore seems more of a lead than Steinfeld.

    Sometimes it what you can do with your screen-time that can dictate whether people remember you as leading or supporting. A passive lead character can be said to be supporting and an aggressive supporting character can be said to be leading, this happens all the time.

  • 14 1-07-2011 at 11:01 am

    Bernard said...

    @10 I think that Jennifer Lawrence comparison is ridiculously ungrounded in narrative reality.

    This is A LOT closer to calling Hawke supporting in Training Day or Foxx in Collateral or McAvoy in Last King of Scotland – they have more screen time and sit at the heart of the narrative but the movie isn’t really about their character as much as it is about the dominant force in their life.

    Here’s what I don’t get – why does it really matter? I think Steinfeld was fantastic and if it takes supporting to get her a nod (a likely concession) then I’m all for it.

  • 15 1-07-2011 at 11:01 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Loyal: I don’t think he feels that way, though. I confronted him on that, too, with a, “Come on. You saw that lead actress was tight and you went with supporting.” But he seemed to think lead would have been easier, he said (though I’m not sure how).

    I think he makes fair points here. But like I said, they don’t sway me, personally.

  • 16 1-07-2011 at 11:02 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Bernard: It’s not that it “matters,” per se. It’s an interesting discussion about the narrative of the film and this debate is simply driving that discussion.

  • 17 1-07-2011 at 11:03 am

    Adam K. said...

    I was actually expecting him to offer something like how Hailee only played the young Mattie and hence was merely a piece of the Mattie Ross character, like Saorsie Ronan in Atonement, for example. Since it was not Hailee narrating and acting out the end, which contained the real catharsis for Mattie, she was not the lead the way the whole Mattie Ross was the lead. That argument I could sort of see even though I don’t buy it since we’re really just talking about 5-10 of screentime at the end.

  • 18 1-07-2011 at 11:03 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    red_wine: Fine and good, but I don’t think this is Cogburn’s story. I think it is Mattie’s.

  • 19 1-07-2011 at 11:04 am

    Bernard said...

    That’s a fair point Kris – guess I just wouldn’t mind seeing her work recognized regardless of category.

  • 20 1-07-2011 at 11:05 am

    Scott W. said...

    “And, most importantly, there is the fact that she doesn’t have an arc, while he does. He changes, she doesn’t, Rudin says. So Mattie is the instigator.”

    So does Rudin think that supporting characters can’t be supporting; or that lead characters can’t be static?

    I know convention says the opposite, but each story has the opportunity to be different by having the story run through certain characters.

  • 21 1-07-2011 at 11:07 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “I would argue with Rudin that we do see how Mattie Ross changes because of her relationship with Rooster; and La Boef…”

    The last part there is key, I think, Indiana. I charged back with, “She changes,” but Rudin doesn’t think so. And I can understand how it could easily be argued that she is in the end who she is at the beginning, but that’s personality, to me.

    Throughout the film, we see Mattie’s coming-of-age. We see, in regards to La Beouf, “awakening romantic longing,” as I put it in my review. To me, we see her life change, even if we don’t see her disposition change.

  • 22 1-07-2011 at 11:08 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    And I want to reiterate that, at this point, it’s not like I’m up in arms at the campaign. It is what it is. She’ll get nominated and potentially even win in supporting, and that’s great. I’m just talking creatively and philosophically about the narrative at this point.

  • 23 1-07-2011 at 11:09 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “I see this as a smart political move on Steinfeld’s part.”

    Not her call.

  • 24 1-07-2011 at 11:09 am

    Michael said...

    honestly, I say let’s take her out of the awards conversation all together. Come back in a few years with some experience down and then maybe she will deserve it – but this was hardly a revelatory performance, regardless of the category it is placed in (IMHO.)

  • 25 1-07-2011 at 11:12 am

    Adam K. said...

    Bernard, I don’t think it’s unfounded at all. Both stories are about teenagers being forced into settling their dead/missing fathers’ affairs, since no one else in the family is willing or able to do so. Both enlist help. Both grow and change somewhat. Both succeed, but at a cost. I think the Teardrop and Cogburn characters are quite similar, though yes, Cogburn is a much more dominant presence.

    The main difference is that we spend much more time alone and/or in closeup with Lawrence than we do with Mattie, and that there’s not a clear second lead in Lawrence’s case, but those are not dealbreakers narratively. They are both protagonists in relatively similar stories.

    And YES, I heartily agree that Steinfeld’s situation is just like the Ethan Hawke, Jamie Foxx and James McAvoy situations, but here’s the thing: THOSE WERE FRAUDULENT, TOO. Just because a character is passive does not make him a non-lead role.

  • 26 1-07-2011 at 11:13 am

    red_wine said...

    Yeah, to be fair and frank, its an expert performance and film serving but also slightly bland. Certainly not as colorful and personality driven as Bridges’ exemplary work here.

    People often confuse whether they love the character or the performance. Same was the case with Shosanna in Inglorious Basterds, same is the case with Mattie in True Grit.

    I feel in love with both the characters, not the performances. I love both films but would not nominate either lady if it were in my hand.

  • 27 1-07-2011 at 11:14 am

    qwiggles said...


    She absolutely has an arc: from starting off believing firmly that all bad deeds are avenged in time, to mucking up her first shot, pulling it off at random and knocking herself in a snake pit on the next try, and finally admitting in the end that “time just gets away from us.” That image of Chaney eternally escaping her as Cogburn’s riding her to help is one of the saddest of the year for me: she didn’t even get to see the body, and this formative moment in her life is about to end with her passed out in a hospital, waking up to never see her two companions again. Her righteousness doesn’t fade, but her faith in the romantic storytelling she seems so fond of in her early narration is certainly lost forever. Lead!

  • 28 1-07-2011 at 11:14 am

    John Campea said...

    It’s like arguing the sky isn’t blue. If they’re going to keep moving lead performers into the supporting category, then the category itself loses all meaning and inherent value. They might as well just scrap the “BEST SUPPORTING” category and have “BEST LEAD PERFORMANCE ‘A'” and “BEST LEAD PERFORMANCE ‘B'”

  • 29 1-07-2011 at 11:16 am

    Adam K. said...

    And though I totally do think she changes, I’d also counter the argument of “it’s a passive character” and “she doesn’t change” with: “Really? If we spend a whole film with someone who just passively stands there and remains unchanged, then what exactly is award-worthy about the performance?” Since I happen to think it is, indeed, a pretty solid but not award-worthy lead performance.

  • 30 1-07-2011 at 11:16 am

    Maxim said...

    red_wine, there are stories where Watson can not only be considered a co-lead but is pretty much THE lead.

    The Hound of Baskervielles immediately comes to mind.

    P.S. This conversation is null because we all know that had it been someone more experienced she would be campainged in lead. Thus the politics dectated the placement. Thus it is NULL.

  • 31 1-07-2011 at 11:18 am

    qwiggles said...

    That said, and while I’d be delighted to see her get nominated in lead, I’m kind of with Anne: everything in the marketing and even the credits has been selling True Grit as a three dudes and “introducing the very special” HS kind of movie: putting her in supporting might misrepresent the role, but it’s consistent with the star tier the film has been running with so far.

  • 32 1-07-2011 at 11:19 am

    Maxim said...

    Oh, and by the way, one can argue that Juno is not the lead of Juno since by the end of it, her character has more of an impact on Garner’s chatacter’s life then vice versa. By the end she just goes back to her old life (But… for it… that’s exactly what a true lead does). And that’s also one of the reasons why I hated the movie’s ending so.

  • 33 1-07-2011 at 11:20 am

    John Campea said...

    @qwiggles – My question would be “since when does the marketing of a film have any relation to the integrity of the narrative or the plain truth therein”?

  • 34 1-07-2011 at 11:20 am

    Bernard said...

    Adam – that’s fair on Hawke, Foxx, McAvoy, I appreciate the consistency. I actually agree with you on the way these roles should be considered but was more bringing up precedent than anything else. There’s a long tradition of the dominant ‘force’ in a movie, regardless of if their the protagonist or not, getting lead billing.

    I agree with you that Winter’s Bone and True Grit’s female leads share narrative similarities, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the ‘bulk’ of the performance. I think you can make a case for Steinfeld for supporting – I don’t think you could ever say the same about Lawrence. I believe Lawrence ‘carries’ the movie in a way Steinfeld is never required to as she has fantastic actors to play off of in nearly every scene while Lawrence spends a good deal of time as the dominant presence on screen.

  • 35 1-07-2011 at 11:21 am

    Adam K. said...

    Honestly I think this may come back to bite the campaign, since neither the HFPA nor BAFTA allowed her into the supporting ranks. One could argue that SAG only did so because they accept every placement no matter what. The same people who nominated her for supporting at SAG may well switch it up and put her in lead where they really think she belongs.

    I think there’s about a 50% chance she shows up in supporting, a 30% chance that she splits her vote and misses both categories, and a 20% or so chance that she pulls a Keisha and actually gets the 5th best actress slot.

  • 36 1-07-2011 at 11:24 am

    Bernard said...

    Adam, I believe I read that a category splitting vote is a myth and that all her votes are counted in the category where she has the most support.

  • 37 1-07-2011 at 11:25 am

    Zach Dickson said...

    I can at least agree with the argument because I subscribe to a similar understanding of The Shawshank Redemption. In my estimation, that film may revolve around Andy Dufresne, but it’s really about Red, and on the point the Academy seemed to agree. True Grit revolves around Mattie Ross in her role as an instigator, but it’s really about the arc of Rooster Cogburn. I think that a supporting nomination would befit her role more appropriately, as well as give Melissa Leo and Amy Adams a run for their money.

  • 38 1-07-2011 at 11:26 am

    qwiggles said...

    John: It doesn’t. But I’m not talking about the integrity of the narrative there — I’ve already argued she’s the lead in that respect — so much as the integrity of the campaign. And it’s more than the campaign, besides: I’ve never liked seeing debuting actors listed last in credits, after lesser roles, but the Coens do it here, right on-screen.

  • 39 1-07-2011 at 11:28 am

    Bernard said...

    Actually now I’m pretty sure I just stated that exactly wrong – so ignore what I said on the voting.

  • 40 1-07-2011 at 11:29 am

    Adam K. said...

    But see how you even called them “female leads”? That because they’re leads. I do think there’s a difference between being a lead and carrying a film. The difference generally has to do with how much help the lead is getting from other actors. But if Steinfeld’s performance had been bad or unbelievable, the film would’ve have worked, since she’s our whole entry point.

    I just get very worked up about this since to me, it seems a simple true vs. false situation. Sometimes it really is open to interpretation, like with Lesley Manville. But this one’s pretty clear cut. Calling a Steinfeld supporting is disrespectful to supporting actors, the integrity of the awards process, and even to Steinfeld herself. Frankly, if I were her and I had to go onstage and accept an award for Best Supporting Actress, I’d feel humiliated and like I was living a lie.

  • 41 1-07-2011 at 11:30 am

    Maxim said...

    Mattie Ross is not just and instigator or catalyst. You cannot have the movie without her character. She is a lead who happens to have a co-lead.

    Even’s in Coen’s mind, there’s a reason why the kept referring to it as not a Western but a juvenile action adventure. It is clear as it it clear in the movie that they care more about her chatacter than Rooser and that makes the friggin film.

  • 42 1-07-2011 at 11:32 am

    Adam K. said...

    Bernard, I don’t think that’s true. I’m pretty sure they just count your votes in each category separately. It’s certainly simpler that way.

  • 43 1-07-2011 at 11:33 am

    qwiggles said...

    I’m surprised more of the staunch Steinfeld-as-lead boosters haven’t raised an eyebrow over Bridges as lead. He has less screen time and no narration or closure, and as Kris points out, if his supposed arc is coming to respect Mattie, then it’s concluded about 20 minutes into the movie.

  • 44 1-07-2011 at 11:33 am

    Bernard said...

    Adam you’re 100% right – I already posted another comment with a link that needed moderation so it hasn’t appeared yet

  • 45 1-07-2011 at 11:37 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Bernard: It’s not really a myth. It’s math. If suddenly people are deciding to vote in lead rather than supporting, that pulls away and dilutes her support in the latter, potentially allowing another performance to steal a spot there and leaving her out in the cold with lead.

    Very possible.

    Now, it does say on the acting ballot that if you are confused, vote for the performance in both categories. But I don’t think anyone really does that.

  • 46 1-07-2011 at 11:38 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Oh, just saw that, Bernard. Sorry.

  • 47 1-07-2011 at 11:41 am

    Maxim said...

    I had a thought. I know that a person cannot be nominated in both categories but is there a rule that specifically forbids people from voting for her in both categories?

  • 48 1-07-2011 at 11:42 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    See comment #45, Maxim.

  • 49 1-07-2011 at 11:42 am

    Adam K. said...

    As one of those staunch Seinfeld-as-lead boosters, I say this: I wouldn’t really mind Bridges being supporting, since I think there’s gray area, but since he’s Jeff Bridges, they’re obviously going lead. I think it’s a better placement for him than supporting, but it could sort of go either way.

    The thing is: when you’re a semi-supporting “co-lead” character and you’re able to make enough of an impression on people to have them vote for you over film-carrying star turns, good for you. The perf was obviously memorable. One can argue that if the role was THAT dominant and memorable, it’s a lead role by default, or can at least be given the benefit of the doubt. This happened with Nicole Kidman and Anthony Hopkins among others. It’s a gamble, but at least it’s not fundamentally unfair to the other actors in the race.

    In the reverse situation, wherein a co-lead (or in this case, an out-and-out lead, which is even worse) hijacks the supporting category, it puts actual supporting roles at a huge disadvantage, punishing them for simply being what they are: smaller roles. It’s like a heavyweight competing in the middleweight field. In addition to being disingenuous, it’s just not fair.

  • 50 1-07-2011 at 11:42 am

    Maxim said...

    Talk about writing too late. Just saw something that answered my question above.

  • 51 1-07-2011 at 11:43 am

    billybil said...

    Bravo! Really good, smart conversation going on here! One of the better exchanges in a while. Thanks to Rudin and Kris and all your folk. Fascinating.

  • 52 1-07-2011 at 11:44 am

    JJ1 said...

    I think a Swank/Moore/Williams could eradicate a Steinfeld in Lead.

    And I think a Manville is serious threat to Steinfeld (or Kunis or HBC) in Supporting.

    Nothing is set in stone for those categories.

  • 53 1-07-2011 at 11:47 am

    Adam K. said...

    Yeah I’m pretty sure people would vote for her in both if they REALLY loved her and were genuinely worried she’d split her vote, especially if there weren’t 5 other perfs in each category they felt particularly strongly about.

    I bet lots of people did that with Kate Winslet’s Reader performance in 2008, for example. But you’d have to be pretty bonkers over a performance to devote so much of your ballot to it.

  • 54 1-07-2011 at 11:50 am

    Mr. Gittes said...

    Off Topic (Sorry!): Kris, do you know the extent of Rudin’s involvement in The Way Back? Is he happy with it? Pushing it for Oscars? Thanks.

  • 55 1-07-2011 at 11:50 am

    Adam K. said...

    Yeah I don’t think Kunis or Steinfeld are safe at all. Kunis has internal competition to worry about, and Steinfeld will certainly be splitting her vote with lead at least a little bit. And there’s at least one uber-raved performance with huge fans and #1 votes (Jacki Weaver) waiting in the wings.

  • 56 1-07-2011 at 11:50 am

    JJ1 said...

    I know I’m going off on a tangent here, but …

    for someone who was stellar in 2 movies in one year (a la DiCaprio), or Winslet in 2008 …

    If DiCaprio gets enough #1 votes for Shutter Island and/or Inception – would he be nominated in Best Actor for whichever movie had more votes IF he had 5th highest votes (of anyone) to be nominated?

  • 57 1-07-2011 at 11:52 am

    JJ1 said...

    Oh, yeah, I keep forgetting the Weaver, too.

  • 58 1-07-2011 at 11:54 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Gittes: Rudin isn’t as involved on TWB as he is TG and TSN. It’s much more Joni Levin and Nigel Sinclair, etc., on that film. But there are ads out there now, I’m noticing. They don’t have a lot of money but they’re advertising.

  • 59 1-07-2011 at 11:54 am

    JJ1 said...

    I see it as:

    Adams, Leo are safest.
    HBC seems ok with the Brits.

    The last 2 spots are up for grabs for a plethera of reasons (category confusion, late-breaking movies, little-seen movies, etc.).

    The last 2 spots, to me, are between Mila Kunis, Lesley Manville, Halee Steinfeld, Jacki Weaver, and maybe a surprise like Barbara Hershey.

  • 60 1-07-2011 at 11:54 am

    qwiggles said...

    Fair, Adam, and I agree. But arguably the supporting categories have never been so pure as to rule out co-leads, and Rudin is just playing the cards he’s been dealt with Steinfeld. Take last year: Gylenhaal was as much a lead in Crazy Heart as Bridges is in True Grit; Damon was a co-lead in Invictus; Harrelson too; Plummer an integral part of an ensemble much like True Grit; ditto Waltz. A leading campaign for any of these actors would’ve been tough, but does that mean they weren’t leads as much as Anthony Hopkins was a lead?

    The supporting categories have in fact always served as a haven for handicapped leads — the biggest handicaps either being that 1) the cast is too big for them to call themselves a decisive lead, even if they’re at the center of it (Del Toro), or 2) a bigger star is co-lead with them (both Gylenhaals, Connelly). It’s gotten to the point where seeing truly supporting performances like Michael Shannon’s or Taraji P. Henson’s get nominated is a surprise.

  • 61 1-07-2011 at 12:07 pm

    Adam K. said...

    Agreed on all points, qwiggles. Doesn’t mean I have to like it : p

    Just because everyone does it doesn’t make it right. The buck has to stop somewhere. With wishy-washy co-lead either/or types, I really don’t care. That’s just the way the game is played. But with clear cut situations like this, it rankles me, and I call it where I see it.

  • 62 1-07-2011 at 12:09 pm

    Fitz said...

    I would have appreciated Rudin being candid instead of saying that Steinfeld doesn’t have a story arc.

    If you didn’t want to put her up against Bening, Kidman, Portman, etc. just say so.

  • 63 1-07-2011 at 12:14 pm

    Andrej said...

    Fine and good, but what still upset me after watching True Grit was realizing that there are posters where Hailee’s name is nowhere to be found! (save for the fine print, obviously). Instead, it’s Josh Brolin who gets a ‘protagonist’ title there.

    Argue all you want about story arc, catalyst characters and what not, but when you don’t announce what is obviously your main and only female lead in an adequate manner from the get-go, all that doesn’t matter. This was a studio decision to capitalize as much as possible with this film, and once the acclaim started to show up, they kept going with that perception for her because why else would they make Best Actress FYC ads for someone who wasn’t originally stated as such.

    If she gets the Oscar, good. Very worthy, but very inaccurate too.

  • 64 1-07-2011 at 12:20 pm

    Bernard said...

    Respectfully, andrej, the purpose of a poster or a trailer or a commercial is to put butts in the seats – not to emphasize what actors have the most screen time or most critical narrative arc. There are a lot of people in America who recognize Brolin from his work (and his family name) and might be more curious to see the movie because of him, but I don’t think there is a single person outside of Steinfeld’s hometown that would make the trip to the theater because of her name on the marquee. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being realistic about that fact (and the marketing has obviously paid off in spades as True Grit is going to be the #3 box office earner of the best picture nominees).

  • 65 1-07-2011 at 12:29 pm

    Adam K. said...

    Agreed, Bernard. Marketing and category placement are two entirely different things.

  • 66 1-07-2011 at 12:34 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Fitz: As I said above, I believe he was being honest about the narrative. Don’t read things into it that aren’t there.

  • 67 1-07-2011 at 12:35 pm

    Simon Warrasch said...

    I think – like many others – that Hailee Steinfeld is the leading lady in True Grit! BUT i think that is a great decission from the producers to place her in the Supporting field! Because if she would go lead she has absolutely no chance! The comeption is too hard for her in the Leading Category! She would fight for a nomination against Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence (if Nicole and Jennifer are no locks, i don’t know), Michelle Williams, and propably Hilary Swank, Lasley Manville, Tilda Swinton and Julianne Moore! So as a new comer she has now chance! I guess! But if she goes supporting she has – i think – a fantastic chance for a nomination and also for a WIN! So… of course there is also hard contenders for her like Amy Adams, Jackie Weaver, Helena Bonham Carter or Mellisa Leo but she has a chance! So, we will see if she goes Lead or Supporting!

  • 68 1-07-2011 at 12:40 pm

    Robert said...

    I think part of the problem with arguing character arc is that Mattie’s is the opposite of what you would expect in a Western. She starts out a strong, young, stalwart woman who gets what she wants at any cost. When she enters the Choctaw territory, she still thinks she can act that way. Through being forced to take a backseat in these action sequences, she realizes that she can’t control everything. It’s only after the incident at the cabin in the mountain that she starts asking “What do we do now, Mr. Cogburn?” That’s how a child would respond to seeing a murder for the first (and second) time–shock, uncertainty, fear. It was partly caused by her, too, as she encouraged the younger criminal to tell the truth with her “I have a good lawyer” talk. From there, she spends the rest of the film rebuilding her confidence so that she has the strength and resolve to confront her father’s murderer not once, but twice, succeeding where her two guides failed in forcing Chaney to face justice. When she falls in the pit, she knows that she cannot survive by her voice alone; she takes action to reach for the knife and free herself, only to fall prey to the rattlesnake hidden in the corpse. She may not shoot a gun while riding, but she sure does have her fair share of action removed from her two adult companions.

    The problem? It’s a subtle change. People see a young girl in a Western and automatically assume she has to fit the type of other children in other Westerns (passive observers who idolize the cowboy). I don’t think she does at all.

  • 69 1-07-2011 at 12:44 pm

    Glenn said...

    But see Bernard it DOES matter. It matters greatly because if people just vote for a performance that is clearly a lead one in the supporting category it flat-out robs someone who is an ACTUAL supporting performance but perhaps has more trouble in securing a nomination. I obviously speak of Jacki Weaver who has more problems to worry about in regards to getting a nomination and now has to content with a 20-year-old in a big box office hit who’s been shoved in the supporting category because they see easier dividends that way and they know they can get away with it because the critics follow them like sheep.

  • 70 1-07-2011 at 1:20 pm

    Andrej said...

    Bernard and Adam K:

    True, but then why wouldn’t they just simply campaign her for lead then, if marketing and the Oscar race are diferent things? Those motives the guy gave sound like he’s just grasping at straws.

    It’s all happening just for the sake of convinience. Brolin makes more money than Steinfeld, and supporting is more open than lead.

  • 71 1-07-2011 at 3:04 pm

    Never argue with Scott said...

    Players’ contracts control listing of names on posters and ads. A new actor is not likely to be able to demand a paid advertising credit.

  • 72 1-07-2011 at 4:33 pm

    James D. said...

    Brolin and Damon are supporting. So is Barry Pepper and the various other small characters. Mattie is the lead, even if Cogburn is a lead as well. After all, why can’t there be two leads?

  • 73 1-07-2011 at 10:10 pm

    devon said...

    u could say the same about jennifer hudson in dreamgirls

  • 74 1-08-2011 at 1:51 am

    Ariel said...

    Say that to Keisha Castle-Hughes in The Whale Rider. She’s got the courage to go lead at a young age.

    The Hollywood system is driven by greed to be quite honest.

  • 75 1-08-2011 at 10:33 am

    DylanS said...

    Ariel, that comment about “courage” blatantly ignores the fact that both Castle-Hughes and Steinfeld were selected out of hundreds of other child actresses for those parts. As talented as they both proved to be, their situation has more to do with luck then courage.

  • 76 1-08-2011 at 12:04 pm

    Bernard said...

    Exactly, DylanS – Barry Pepper recently said in an interview that the Coens started with 15000 candidates for the role and eventually winnowed it down to 5 finalist who tried out with Pepper and Bridges. I’m sorry but there’s nothing ‘courageous’ about trying to get a leading role.

    Andrej – Whether you buy Rudin’s explanation or not, it doesn’t change the fact that the way a film is marketed has very little to do with its Academy Award campaign.

    Glenn – A few comments here. (1) Hailee Steinfeld just turned 14 last month which is who I assume you’re talking about. (2) I love film and I, perhaps masochistically, like following the Academy Awards. And every year I have movies and performances I’d love to see recognized that go ignored. But on this issue I just don’t see why it’s worth getting that worked up about (that said, I agree with Kris that the debate has helped drive fun and intelligent discussion of the themes of the film). I believe she’s lead BUT I think there is an intelligent argument to the contrary. There isn’t any bright-line rule about what constitutes lead or supporting roles so I don’t see any actual harm in pushing a debatable case in the direction it’s more likely to win.

  • 77 1-08-2011 at 8:53 pm

    Adam K. said...

    It’s worth getting worked up about because it’s wrong. Because it’s not truthful. Because it’s disrespectful to actual supporting players. Because it diminishes the integrity, relevance, and purpose of the awards process. And because in this case, it’s really not “debatable”. You can make a theoretical argument to the contrary, but it holds no weight upon actual scrutiny of the film.

    Mattie Ross is the central character, she DOES have an arc, she begins and ends the film, and she participates in nearly every scene. For the film to have any thematic or emotional weight, she is the necessary entry point and anchor. To claim she has no arc totally diminishes the most compelling elements in the film. Just saying these things are untrue doesn’t make them so. Even if Rudin is honest in his reasoning, he’s still wrong.

    I just can’t get behind this “can’t we all just get along” approach when it runs counter to the basic facts staring me in the face. This is certainly not the only example of category fraud that’s ever happened, but one has to choose one’s battles, and this is a particularly galling example (certainly the most blatant one this year).

  • 78 1-11-2011 at 10:33 pm

    kel said...


    Couldn’t you say the same for William H. Macy/Frances McDormand in FARGO? Macy was very much the lead of the movie as was McDormand (though she could arguably be considered supporting), though she won in lead and he was merely nominated in supporting.

  • 79 1-14-2011 at 9:10 am

    Clara said...

    The integrity of the awards show? The same awards show which handed Sandra Bullock an Oscar just last year (I love Sandra Bullock, but over Streep and Mulligan, nevermind ignoring Sally Hawkins completely?)

    Look, the awards show process is ageist against young people. Samantha Morton shouldn’t have been nominated for In America; it should have been Sarah Bolger.

    You can make an argument for Steinfeld: look what happened with Training Day. Ethan Hawkes was the protagonist, but Denzel had the Oscar winning role.

    I think the main problem here is that no one anticipated Steinfeld being so good. If she had been just competent, Jeff Bridges would have stolen the show. But Bridges was good, Damon was good and Steinfeld was outstanding.

    That’s how I see it. There are a few comments putting the blame on Steinfeld herself, which is ridiculous. Fingers crossed the BAFTAs nominate her in lead. If that happens, she might, as others have said, pull a Keisha.

  • 80 1-14-2011 at 10:23 am

    Kevin said...

    My argument against all this? SHE. IS. IN. EVERY. SCENE.

    There is literally no explaining how someone can be a supporting actress when they are in every single scene of their film. If she had missed one scene, there would be a little room for argument, but no. Not one damn scene. She’s the lead.

  • 81 1-14-2011 at 10:42 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    kel: I think Fargo is a co-lead situation, personally. The rare example of the film being smartly ABOUT both characters. Though more so for Marge.

  • 82 1-16-2011 at 10:36 am

    Joe said...

    mattie is obviously the lead, the reason rudin is arguing for the contrary is so that stenfield has a better shot at getting the oscar.