'True Grit': Hailee Steinfeld for Best Actress?

Hailee-SteinfeldImage Credit: Wilson WebbThe fantastic box office performance of the Coen brothers’ True Grit only helps its Oscar chances. At this point I’d call the critically-acclaimed Western a great bet for nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The question mark for me is 14-year-old breakout Hailee Steinfeld, utterly delightful as the film’s precocious heroine, Mattie Ross. Steinfeld received Best Supporting Actress nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, but despite Paramount’s supporting campaign, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association put her in their Best Actress category, and she missed out on a Golden Globe nomination altogether. Now I’m hearing of more and more members of the Academy’s actors branch that plan to vote for Steinfeld in the lead category as well.

This of course has happened before: Two years ago, AMPAS ignored Kate Winslet’s supporting campaign for The Reader and nominated her in lead. And before that, another teen breakout, Whale Rider‘s Keisha Castle-Hughes, became the youngest Best Actress nominee in history after voters failed to heed her supporting campaign. When it comes to Steinfeld, I actually understand the arguments for placing her in either category. As the film progresses, True Grit does feel more like Jeff Bridges’ story with Steinfeld supporting him, but there’s no denying that Steinfeld dominates the first half.

Steinfeld actually could end up in the Best Actress race after all, since that category seems to have four sure things (Black Swan‘s Natalie Portman, The Kids Are All Right‘s Annette Bening, Winter’s Bone‘s Jennifer Lawrence, and Rabbit Hole‘s Nicole Kidman) and no clear contender for that fifth slot. There’s Michelle Williams from Blue Valentine, but some voters I’ve talked to are turned off by the film’s darkness. There’s Lesley Manville from Another Year, but not everyone has even seen that late-year release. And there’s Julianne Moore from The Kids Are All Right, who seems to have faded from the picture while her onscreen partner picks up all the accolades.

Could Steinfeld take advantage and steal that last spot? Quite possibly. We’ve seen in the past that no studio campaign (or Oscar blogger, for that matter) can really influence the Academy when it comes to voting for a performer in lead vs. supporting. My only fear is that Steinfeld will get as many votes as her competitors but that they’ll be so evenly divided between Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress that she’ll end up getting nominated for neither. In a letter accompanying their ballots, members of the actors branch are encouraged to vote a performance in both categories if they’re not sure where it belongs. Maybe Steinfeld’s Academy-member fans should do that just to be safe.

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  • Entertainment2u-Twitter

    Interesting option there, Mr!

    • FromChicago

      She would win the Best Supporting; but she belongs in the Best Actress category because she was in every single frame! She was right there with Bridges.
      For the win — Best Supporting.

      • Ian

        I thought the same thing when River Phoenix was nominated for Supporting Actor for Running On Empty. He’s the clear focus of the story from start to finish, but the nature of the cast made you think he was still in the supporting part.

      • MovieBuff

        You hit it dead on!! Was surprise to see the nomination, what do you mean “Supporting Actress”? She is the main character, eithout her, there is no movie here.

  • Zawmer

    She should only be considered in the Best Actress category. I can’t stand it when someone ends up in the lead or supporting category depending on their spot on the Hollywood totem pole. The story of True Grit is carried by Steinfeld’s character, therefore it is a leading role. Whether or not she deserves a nomination is another story, but it simply is not a supporting role any more than Timothy Hutton was playing a supporting role in Ordinary People.

    • Terry

      Yes, I agree. There have been many actors who have lost out on nominations because they didn’t make the cut. But to go around that by putting yourself up as a supporting role when clearly it was a lead role it just wrong. It robs those who were truly supporting as the other usually ahs more of an arc in the story and is more likely to make an impression. Still pissed that Clooney won for Best supporting. Though he was in an ensemble, his character was clearly the most dominant and was the featured actor on the advertising. You didn’t see Wilfred Brimley on the poster for Absence of Malice. The only thing that irritates me as much is when actors get nominated for best screenply. C’mon, the actors branch is the largest voter’s group in the academy, so it’s pretty much a win if one gets nominated(okay, if Mel Gibson were to get nominated for best screenplay the others would probably stand a chance. Probably.) I knew Emma Thompson would win as soon as she was nominated and as for Ben Affleck and matt Damon, well, was there any doubt. They were running all over the media with their story about doors getting slammed in their faces while at the same time getting cast in bigger and better movies. They played themselves up like Stallone in Rocky and Hollywood bit. But it was hardly comparable. Stallone was in small parts in Roger Corman films when he turned down offers for his screenplay. He would not sell it if he didn’t play the lead, even if he had no money in the bank and hardly an acting career. By comparrison I think Damon had already been cast in Private Ryan and Affleck in Armegeddon before they won their oscar. But it made a nice story.

      • Mac

        Screenwriters can only vote for Best Screenplay; Directors for Best Director; Actors for any of the acting categories, etc. Everyone gets to vote for Best Picture.

      • Terry

        While I don’t doubt you, I thought that only worked in the nominating process, but as for the winners, everyone votes. If true, I can’t believe screenwriters would’ve voted for Good Will Hunting over say Boogie Nights.

      • E

        Mac, that’s only true of the nominations. Once the final ballot goes out, everyone can vote on it.

      • Woot

        Not true E. Some categories still have restrictions. Foreign Language Film requires voters to have seen all the nominees at academy screenings in order to vote.

    • dee

      Agreed. That’s what I thought after watching the film, she’s in amost every scene.

    • Snsetblaze

      I agree with Zawmer. Matt Damon was a supporting character. Hailee’s Mattie Ross was a lead character.

  • Davey

    The Academy is turned off by Blue Valentine’s darkness? This is the same group that gave the best actress award to Hillary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry and Charize Theron in Monster. I guess those films were a barrel of laughs.

    • Strepsi

      Lol! But both those films — plus Malle Berry in Monster’s Ball, and Nicole Kidman in The Hours — are actually in the “HOT ACTRESS GOES UGLY” category, which the Academy ALWAYS loves.

      • WTF?

        Halle didn’t “go ugly” in Monster’s ball, unless you count her character hooking up with Billy bob thornton’s (blech!). It was more like she went trashy.

    • Snsetblaze

      LOL Strepsi. I haven’t seen the film but I’m guessing Michelle didn’t go “ugly” in Blue Valentine.

    • rob

      Michelle DEFINITELY deserves that 5th slot! Her performance is amazing and heartbreaking.

    • fanny

      Geez..How can you give a nomination to someone that hasn’t proof that ones has talent. I am sad to say Williams will get snub for her heartbreaking raw deserving performance.

      • Japanese Japanese HIROSHI

        Fanny and everybody else, please don’t just lose your hope yet. Sometimes, the so-called 5th, or even 4th, slot brought us a good surprise. It did happen before. If Williams is really good, then IMO, she should stand a chance.


      Excellent point.

  • Mark Johnson

    She deserves it enough to have her name written down twice.

  • Tim Lade

    Ah Dave…once again you continue to impress as the best journalist on staff…good work!

    As for this article, I couldn’t agree more. I trust your instincts as always and I easily won my Oscar pool last year using your picks so good work!

  • D

    She deserves a nomination sure, but noone deserves the win more then Portman, imo.

    • LOL

      More “than” Portman.

  • Erin

    Interesting take. She definitely deserves it-I just assumed she’d be nominated for supp. actress. I was thinking the fifth slot would go to either Julianne Moore or Michelle Williams, but now I have some doubts. LOL

    • kimmy

      Hailee going Best Lead actress would totally shake up the votes. I don’t think she would win, but the voters would have a tough time. But maybe if she went Lead, then there would be room for Juliann Moore for Supporting? (although i believe she is more of a Lead as well…I just want her nominated!!)

  • couchgrouch

    best movie and performance of the year. no CGI, robots or superheroes. Black Swan was a manipulative, over-heated melodrama. its best performance was Joan Crawford’s exhumed corpse as Natalie’s mother.

    • rob

      HA HA HA HA

    • m1

      OMG, that was funny.

    • Woot

      While I disagree about Black Swan (my favorite of 2010) I couldn’t help but laugh at this.

    • Sarah

      I agree! Portman’s performance was over rated and buzzed about too much. I expected more and was disappointed. True grit was the best of the year.

  • Kevin

    How on earth can you say she could possibly be considered a supporting actress? She’s in every scene of the movie!

    • Terry

      Exactly, even more so than Kim Darby in the original as they get rid of LaBoeff for much of the film so there is more focus on just Rooster and Mattie.

    • Mr. Holloway

      Not only is she lead based on screen time, but her character actually DRIVES the story.

      I understand that putting her in Supporting might give her a better chance at a nomination, but they should do the right thing and push her for Lead. If Bridges is a Lead, then Steinfeld is ABSOLUTELY Lead as well! (Her character is his equal, and maybe his superior, in terms of prominence and importance to the plot.)

  • ChrisV

    When I left the theater, I was thinking the same thing, Dave… this is a “best actress” nomination. I agree with other comments, that this is Portman’s win. But Stenfield deserves to join the previously mentioned “top four” candidates with a nomination. The movie sinks without her sharp tongue and great acting.

  • Buddymoore

    I will be happy as long as she gets a nomination, she gave one of the most astounding performances of the year in my opinion. It would be a shame if she ended up not getting nominated because she had some of the most votes for an actress in general, but not in one category so they just throw her out and bring in the next best thing.

  • Fernando valdes

    Are you very sure that jennifer lawrence will gel the oscar nod in best actrees category? I don’t think so, the nominies for best actrees in a leading role are:
    Annette Bening, Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman, Michelle Williams and JULIANNE MOORE, yes she is the big surprise, I am so sorry Jennifer, julianne is so great in the movie that i don’t understand why all the atenttion was for annette.

    • Snsetblaze

      I agree with Julianne being amazing. Plus she was in the film a lot more than Annette so shouldn’t the latter be moved to supporting?

    • Kelsey

      I think Jennifer Lawrence can still get the “indie” slot that Leo did for Frozen River. She’s had people talking about her in Winter’s Bone for MONTHS. I don’t see Kidman and Williams getting nominated. Rabbit Hole just hasn’t DONE much, and Blue Valentine’s ratings issues are kind of a downer.

      • Tuvak

        Rabbit Hole may not be making huge $$, but Kidman’s performance is simply brilliant. She has to be there

    • Eric

      Just because you thought Julianne Moore was great doesn’t mean she’ll be nominated.

      It’s possible Moore will get the nomination – she’s in the running – but the precursors have made it clear that Portman, Bening, Kidman, and Lawrence all have very good chances of being nominated. And Williams is the most likely possibility for that fifth spot.

    • pk

      Fernando, I believe Lawrence will get the nomination not only because she was very good, but because the poverty of rural America depicted (very realistically) in the movie freaked Hollywood out. I think it affected them deeply (though not deeply enough to have a telethon like they did for Haiti) and therefore her performance will be remembered. Despite all the raves I think Portman is the weakest of those mentioned (though I know for sure she’ll be nominated can you say “melodramatic”), and while I haven’t seen Rabbit Hole all the Botox is a big turnoff regarding Kidman.

    • rb

      I agree… Julianne Moore blew me away (again) with her truthful take on her character. I think she’s just been too good lately. She needs to make a few stinkers and then come back strong again, so we can appreciate her. Annette just doesn’t have the amount of strong performances in her filmography to warrant the “overdue for an Oscar” status given to her. I also can’t stand that she hasn’t promoted this movie that she is supposedly the Best Actress in… until award season started, now she’s everywhere. Hmmm?

      I loved Winter’s Bone, but I thought Lawrence’s performance was the weakest part of the film. Of course, that isn’t really fair to say because everything else about the movie (the script, locations, supporting cast, shots, etc) were AMAZING. I just don’t think Lawrence really added much. I think most indie-style actresses could pull off that performance.

      Julianne Moore for the 5th slot!!

      • Woot

        While I love Julianne Moore, I think the awful “twist” in the film will ruin her chances. Moore’s character going straight with Mark Ruffalo. I know I’m not the only one that thought it ruined the movie. I think Benning gave the more “sympathetic” performance and why she will get nominated.

  • SC

    You are not a “supporting” actress when you’re in almost every scene, you’re the narrator, and the entire movie is about your personal journey.

    • Gretchen

      Yes, exactly! Also, the best female character on screen since Marge Gunderson.

      • Michelle

        But you could actually almost fit Frances McDormand in the Supporting Actress category (yes, I know she won Lead Actress). But that is the flip side of this story. In “Fargo,” Marge doesn’t even come into the movie until a third of the way through it. William H. Macy has more screen time but he was put into the Best Supporting Actor category. And Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs” was definitely a supporting role but they thought they could get the Best Actor win, and they did.

  • Adam

    She deserves to be nominated for something. And it should be for Best Actress because her role is a lead role just as much as Jeff Bridges’ role, if not more so. I assume that her campaign was for supporting maybe because they thought she would have a better chance of winning (let’s face it, there’s no way she’ll beat the likes of Portman, Bening, and Kidman, nor does she deserve to beat Portman). But that shouldn’t matter. It’s a lead role and I’ve been annoyed by the fact that she’s been pushed for supporting. Hopefully the Academy will get it right.
    It also has bothered me that her name isn’t even featured on posters for the film, and yet Josh Brolin is. He’s in the movie for like 15 minutes, and he gets star billing over her? Stupid Hollywood politics.

    • Patrick

      I agree with Adam that Haile deserves a nomination for Best Actress and should have been on the posters and film credits as “starring.” She was magnificent!

  • Smile Time

    This young lady was 13 during filming of her very first movie. She was in nearly every scene and her delivery was nothing short of amazing. Kim Darby was 23 when True Grit was shot in 1969. I was 6 when I saw that movie and I can say without reservation that Hailee’s performance buried Kim’s. The nom was well-deserved!!

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