How does the Academy of Motion Picture define the role of a Supporting Actor/Actress?

Or: What makes an actor/actress get nominated for an Oscar for best performance in a supporting role instead of a leading role?

I know the basics, its a combination of the character's importance to the script and screen time. But there are several cases that don't make complete sense (at least for me).

For example, in "The Godfather", Marlon Brando got a leading role nomination, while Al Pacino got a supporting role nomination (along with James Caan and Robert Duval). And in "Training Day", Denzel Washington got a leading role nomination, while Ethan Hawke got a supporting role nomination.

Other supporting role nominations that don't make perfect sense to me: Thomas Haden Church in "Sideways", Jamie Foxx in "Collateral", Clive Owen and Natalie Portman in "Closer", Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt", Jennifer Hudson in "Dreamgirls", and I'm sure there are several other cases that I don't remember or know.

In the same sense, some lead actor/actress nominations could/should have been a supporting actor/actress nomination, such as Forest Whitaker in "The Last King Of Scotland", Reese Witherspoon in "Walk the Line" and Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada".

Just wondering if anyone else thinks the same, or think that I'm completely wrong.

Thanks :)

2 Answers

  • 8 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Hi, many think the same with you. The fact is (and you may be surprised), that the Academy is not necessarily the one that defines what a leading and what a supporting role is - since their rules are not that defined on the subject. Is the studios that own the movies that have the major influence on that.

    An explanation: Initially, the Academy members had the right to decide each on their own if a role was leading or supporting in the nomination process. As you would expect, their opinions did not always match, and as a result at 1945 Ceremony Burry Fitzgerlad was nominated for both leading and supporting actor Oscars FOR THE SAME ROLE (in the film: Going My Way (1944)) and he won the supporting one. Many agree today, that he could easily had won both!

    That of course, made the Academy revise their rules and so, in order to avoid internal disputes, they decided to allow the studio executives to give their opinions for each Oscar categories each role in their movies to be considered for. In that manner, the studios may also increase the chances of their actors/actresses to be nominated (and win) by placing them in the categories with the less competition.

    For that reason Kate Winslet's role in the Reader (2008) won a Supporting Role Golden Globe, but a Leading Actress Oscar at 2009. The executives believed she had a better chance in tha category.

    So, in reality, in a dfilm with many leads, yuo can never be sure what the Academy will consider leading or supporting. Some people argue to this day that Anthony Hopksins brilliant performance in the Silence of the Lambs was actually as supporting role, counting his "screen time". i hope my answer helped.

    Source(s): wikipedia and some experts opinion
  • Janice
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Alec the Dalek wins the award for motion picture. The Buk wars Saga. Buk wins the Grammy for talk show host. I will be starring in a little trick or treat movie Halloween night. Wanna co-star with me you gorgeous hunk of metal.

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