Anyone who’s seen “August: Osage County” on stage knows that the role of Violet Weston, originated by Deanna Dunagan in the Steppenwolf Theatre production of Tracy Letts’ play in Chicago and later reprised in a Tony-winning turn on Broadway, is catnip for any actress. Full of broad strokes and opportunity for chewing the scenery, it’s a role that would have put whoever ended up with the film gig — certainly Meryl friggin’ Streep — right in the middle of the Oscar race.
It’s a clear leading role in a play with two of them (the other being Violet’s daughter Barbara, originated by Amy Morton on stage and played by Julia Roberts in the film). Both, in fact, were nominated for Tonys, but the “bigger” role of Violet naturally brought in the attention and, ergo, the awards. So I don’t quite know how you shuffle that performance, particularly coming from Streep, over to a supporting actress campaign, as Gold Derby is reporting, unless there has been some tinkering done with the script to make Barbara more of a fulcrum for the thing (which she kind of already is to an extent).
If the move is true — I was only told “not finalized” by a Weinstein rep — then that’s too bad for Margo Martindale, an amazing character actress who got the meaty supporting role of Mattie Fae Aiken that brought Rondi Reed a Tony Award and is absolutely perfect for it. With Streep in the mix, a lot of the attention would be pulled away from her. It’s a shame because it happens a lot, a big star sucking up all the air in a category where lesser-known actors are pulling off incredible (true) supporting performances.
But maybe there’s room for two supporting nods from the film. After all, there is a long history of double nominees from a single film showing up in the Best Supporting Actress category and this is an ensemble with a lot of moving parts. This would also give Roberts a clearer shot at recognition, and it certainly makes strategic sense given how uniquely competitive the lead actress race seems to be this year. So while Gold Derby is using flattering language like “Streep has agreed to drop down to the supporting race,” maybe it’s just recognition from Streep, her reps and those at TWC that she has a better shot to win in the less competitive supporting field?
And that’s if all of this even pans out. Again, I’m told it’s not finalized and that they are still trying to figure out the best course. We’ll bother with a chart update when an actual decision is made on this. But it’s worth noting that top contenders in the supporting actress field already include Octavia Spencer in “Fruitvale Station” and Oprah Winfrey in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” both Weinstein films. Maybe Harvey is just looking to stack the deck?
But even then…remember “The Reader?” The Academy makes up its own mind in these situations.
“August: Osage County” will have its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month. It arrives in theaters in limited release on Christmas Day.