The Oscar Warrior: Why are Clooney and Pitt Campaigning?


I wanted to write something about all the Oscar campaigning that’s been going on with actors and filmmakers appearing all over the morning television shows and at the recent Santa Barbara Film Festival, hoping to get some last minute face-time with Oscar voters who haven’t yet filled out their ballots. We’ve been seeing George Clooney and Viola Davis and the actors from The Artist on television constantly in the last few weeks since nominations were announced.

The one that really gets my goat is George Clooney who has been doing tons of interviews and TV appearances to promote Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. Now granted, it’s still in theaters and doing well but where was Clooney in September and October when Fox Searchlight was trying to get the word out on the movie? Most of his co-stars did interviews and Payne probably did more interviews than he did for Sideways, but Clooney only made a few token appearances.

So he gets a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his performance and suddenly we see Clooney EVERYWHERE, literally doing every single morning and evening show in hopes of getting him out there. Searchlight is also spending millions on TV ads promoting the movie but mainly Clooney with commercials that show his big “one tear” moment from the last act of the movie.

Brad PItt has also been out and about campaigning for his own Oscar for Moneyball, but not to the degree of Clooney. Pitt could be seen on the cover of trade magazines like The Hollywood Reporter and Backstage with full interviews when like Clooney, he barely bothered doing anything for Moneyball, instead allowing his co-nominee Jonah Hill to do all the hard work.

Granted, The Descendants is still playing in theaters, but why is the normally-elusive Clooney being so open to doing the talk show circuit? Maybe because he knows he has a much tougher contest right now with Jean Dujardin of The Artist having won the SAG and BAFTA awards in the leading actor category, showing real positive support for an actor who was virtually unknown on these shores this time last year. Clooney’s people probably figured there are enough Oscar voters watching these shows to make it worth the time. Now mind you, I thought Clooney was terrific in the movie, easily one of the best performances of his career, but why would he work so hard to shut out an actor whose work was just as fantastic and not only deserves an Oscar but could actually use it to improve his life and career?

Seriously, what can Clooney and Pitt gain from winning another Oscar? They both are two of Hollywood’s most famous A-list actors who command top paydays when available, and you would be hard-pressed to find anyone on the planet, inside Hollywood or out, who doesn’t know who these guys are.

On the other hand, someone like Jean Dujardin, a hard-working French actor who has been making movies for years, their entire life and career would be changed by an Oscar win. Just look at Marion Cotillard and all the great movies and roles she’s been doing since winning an Oscar for La Vie en RoseInception, Contagion, Midnight in Paris–she got these gigs first and foremost because her name was everywhere after winning an Oscar (and she is a terrific actress who has brought a lot to all three movies).

For Viola Davis, who has also been on a non-stop campaign trail over the last few months, winning an Oscar could also be huge for her because she can suddenly command a higher price, more in line with her talents and experience as an actress. Then again, Meryl Streep’s performance in The Iron Lady was pretty fantastic, and one has to wonder whether her fellow Academy members who continually nominate her will realize this and finally give her another Oscar.

Now mind you, lots of actresses have gone on to do awful movies after winning an Oscar–I’m talking to you Hilary Swank and Nicole Kidman… and Charlize Theron… and Halle Berry. Ay-yi-yi… what is it with these actresses and their agents and the bad choices they’re making after an Oscar win? Cotillard has avoided this and maybe Dujardin will follow her lead. Clooney and Pitt will keep making relatively decent movies with or without an Oscar win. Streep, well she’s been making more than her share of lousy movies in recent years and maybe giving her an Oscar will force her to rethink doing movies like Mamma Mia!, but probably not.

In recent weeks, there’s been a similar amount of campaigning for Max von Sydow who got a surprise Oscar nomination and suddenly is considered the main competition against the similarly-experienced veteran Christopher Plummer, who has been the frontrunner for months now, winning almost every single award available. Granted, both of them are in the “let’s honor them while they’re alive” category but campaigning seems to be somewhat pointless since Plummer has a clear advantage with so many awards under his belt. Even so, von Sydow has been doing tons of interviews in the last few weeks despite his movie, Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close mostly being dead in the water.

However this all pans out, look for my final Oscar picks, including some of the categories that we haven’t discussed, sometime later this week.