Oscar campaigns are the most delicate of flowers; every change in the winds spells death, every ray of sunshine a potential victory. Never has that been more true than in 2016. A year, for the first time in recent memory, which hasn't afforded prognosicators a clear frontrunner.
Spotlight ran strong, until The Big Short's surprise win at the PGA's suddenly catapulted it as a new favourite. The Revenant's own notoriously difficult shoot has left the epic like a lumbering beast: formidable, but unwieldly. All this talk of bison's livers is a self-publicised move which initially forwarded it ahead of the game, before the hype slowly engulfed itself to reveal a new vulnerability to potential backlash.
The film's been left in a precarious position now, with the smallest imbalance potentially throwing the entire thing off course, leaving the door wide open for Spotlight or The Big Short to stroll right on up to the podium. Indeed, we're talking an imbalance as small as the matter of a certain star not doing his duties on the campaign for his Best Supporting Actor award.
GQ has delved into the significance of Tom Hardy's absence from the Academy campaign trail, as he excludes himself from the various luncheons, press junkets, and meet-and-greets which usually litter the season. Not without reason, as the actor is busy filming his new BBC project Taboo, the brainchild of the actor and his father Chips Hardy.
It seems as if Hardy's lack of remorse about his own nonattendance, or his negligence in exhibiting extraneous efforts to make himself known to the Academy, doesn't present the right picture for potential Oscar voters. They're wanting another Leo, courteously posing for cameras and effusing such gratefulness in being recognised.
And Hardy's simply not that kind of actor. "Lock me out of that for your own good," he once told Entertainment Weekly. "It's like putting a wig on a dog, or a tutu on a crocodile. It doesn't look right, it's not fair to the animal, and inevitably someone will get bitten and hurt."
Only in the Hollywood circus would an actor get flack for, you know, acting; and yet here we are. The Hollywood Reporter notes the fact Hardy is so visibly "missing from the campaign circuit" could prove a potential liability for The Revenant's overall chances; all part of an intricate circuit of visibility and reputation.
These behind-the-curtain machinations are always important to keep in mind, especially in the light of the recent #OscarsSoWhite controversy. We don't live in a world in which Hardy's work is judged merely on its artistic merits instead of the width of his smile at a Hollywood event; we're dealing with an awards process entrenched in intense campaigning and brutal competition.
One needs only to back to last year's controversy surrounding Selma's depiction of Lyndon B. Johnson as unfavourable to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Selma march. It's a little hard to believe the timing of those criticisms to flare up precisely as Selma's Oscar campaign took full swing was entirely a coincidence.
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Whether Hardy's absences pose any real threat to The Revenant's own Oscar campaign will likely only be unveiled on the night in question, taking place 28 February.
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