Viola Davis’ ‘The Woman King’ Oscar Snub at Chaplin Gala – IndieWire
It was about an hour into Viola Davis’ tribute during the movie at Lincoln Center’s 48th Annual Chaplin Gala before someone addressed the elephant in the room.
“When I see a movie like The Woman King, it has Viola’s fingerprints on it,” said Davis’ The Gone with Eleanor Rigby co-star Jessica Chastain. “A film like this could be made with a female director and strong black female leads in Hollywood today because of Viola’s lifelong support of women of color. Maybe one day such a film will be nominated for an Oscar.”
The announcement was met with rapturous applause from Lincoln Center donors, industry colleagues and many acting students from Davis’ alma mater, Juilliard. It was a clarion call for the biggest Oscars to cast a shadow over last year’s awards season and contextualize a celebration that made up for a missed opportunity.
Davis’ performance as an African war general looked like a snub in the Best Actress category after the Sony release brought in nearly $100 million following a successful run on the fall circuit, but Davis was shut out of the category, while the film itself received zero nominations — a result so has led to questions about whether the Academy has really addressed its diversity issues in the wake of #OscarsSoWhite.
At a dinner following the ceremony, where board members paid up to $100,000 per table for the fundraising event, Chastain — who has two months left in the Broadway production of “A Doll’s House” — was still reeling from the exclusion. “Someone had to say it,” he told IndieWire. “I mean, come on.” No Oscar nominations for this movie? There must have been some members of the Academy in that room, right?
Indeed they were. The crowd, from CAA heavyweight Kevin Huvane to prolific documentarian Roger Ross Williams and several other notable actors and filmmakers, came out during the ceremony to praise Davis, who is only the third EGOT winner to receive the Chaplin honor, Mike Nichols and Audrey Hepburn. . Despite Davis’ 2016 Oscar win for “Fences,” the event highlighted how the 57-year-old actress’ talents are often underappreciated — and in some cases, the highlight of otherwise forgettable films. For every ‘Widows’ or ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ there are lesser known gigs like ‘Troop Zero’ and ‘Lila & Eve’ where he still manages to stand out.
Steven McQueen, the director of the “Widows” film, admitted this in his speech. “Watching these clips on the screen is like watching Mike Tyson punch out,” he said. “Viola and someone else are listening.” You see someone who is true. Scary and revealing.”
While Woman King director Gina Prince-Bythewood did not address the recent offense in her own words. editorial earlier this year he spoke about the cultural impact of the performance. “The number of audiences who have shared that this film and playing Nanisca has literally changed their lives is amazing and inspiring,” said Prince-Bythewood. “That’s why we fought so hard for black female characters to show their messiness.”
He also heralded Davis’ “insane work ethic,” a sentiment echoed by Meryl Streep, who recalled working with Davis on John Patrick Shanley’s 2008 film Doubt, Davis’s screen breakthrough, which resulted in her first Oscar nomination. Streep recalled her frustration when Shanley kept asking for more footage of a scene in which Davis, as the mother of a child at a Catholic school who may have been abused by a priest, rejects Streep’s nun’s accusations. “I said, ‘You’re going to kill this actor,'” Streep recalled. “I know an Oscar performance when I see one.”
Shanley insisted they come back for more filming the following week, when Davis delivered the devastating performance that ended the film. “The greatest artists have the ability to convey what it means to be human,” Streep said. “It’s just undeniable and unstoppable by lack of opportunity.”
The event doubled as Davis’ next Oscar push for playing Michael Jordan’s mother, Deloris, in “Air,” which was not included in any montage of Davis’ work, but did receive a nod. standalone clip towards the end of the show. During the scene, Deloris urges Matt Damon’s Nike executive to accept a deal that promises her son will receive revenue from Air Jordan sales indefinitely, even though it’s also an argument for pay equity, which Davis has pushed for throughout the industry.
Amazon is expecting big numbers from the film when it lands on the streaming service in May following a wide theatrical release, as it’s expected to gross nearly $50 million in North America. However, “Air” director Ben Affleck and others associated with the show did not attend the gala as the studio will likely wait until later this year to release the show.
In her own speech that closed the ceremony, Davis presented a bigger picture of her career, striking the same uplifting tone she wrote in her memoir, Finding Me, released last year. “The greatest regret of the dying is that you will never be your ideal self,” he said. “I think we’ve been pushed into a world where we don’t fit in. Many people sell merchandise along the way – so if you get a few prizes, you mean something. … You swim through all the bad, dirty laundry until you come to the really, really sharp conclusion that you want to leave this Earth and become who you know deep down that I am. It’s beyond status.”