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‘Fences’: Viola Davis Will Campaign for the Supporting Actress Oscar

It's Official. While Paramount, Scott Rudin, and Davis' reps weighed in, Davis has agreed to campaign for "Fences" as Best Supporting Actress.


Viola Davis and Denzel Washington on “Fences” opening night.

Photo by Amanda Schwab/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock


As a sign that the Best Actress race is the most competitive in years, Paramount has confirmed that they are promoting Denzel Washington’s “Fences” costar Viola Davis in the Best Supporting Actress category. Oscar watchers have been waiting for this shoe to drop.

Anyone who has seen the August Wilson play (which won Tonys in 2010 for Best Revival of a Play, Best Actor for Washington and Best Actress for Davis) knows that the popular “How to Get Away with Murder” star, who has been Oscar-nominated twice (“Doubt,” “The Help”) more than stands up to Washington’s unhappy, angry husband onstage.

While Davis has huge respect from the Actors Branch and is expected to explode on-screen in “Fences,” she could have a better chance of taking home the gold statue in supporting. For Best Actress she’d be up against Amy Adams (“Arrival”), Annette Bening (“20th Century Women”), Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”), Ruth Negga (“Loving”), Natalie Portman (“Jackie”), and Emma Stone (“La La Land”)—and the list goes on. This opens up another slot in this crowded field.

Her main rivals in supporting would be Michelle Williams, who is magnificent in a small role in Kenneth Lonergan’s tragic drama “Manchester by the Sea,” Naomie Harris as a Miami drug addict (“Moonlight”), and Felicity Jones as a mother fighting cancer (“A Monster Calls”).

Clearly many cooks were debating the best strategy for Davis to take. But the final call in these matters is usually the star. Davis won Best Actress on Broadway and should compete for the same at the Oscars. But she’s going for the win.

READ MORE: 2017 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

Paramount booked Washington’s film version of Wilson’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning drama for December 16 limited release in Los Angeles and New York, followed by a national expansion on December 25, prime time for awards season.

“Fences” tells the story of retired baseball player Troy Maxson (Washington), who is now a garbage man looking regretfully back on his past while tangling with his wife Rose (Davis). Mykelti Williamson and Russell Hornsby also reprise their stage roles.

This marks Washington’s third outing as a director, following well-received indie dramas “Antwone Fisher” and “The Great Debaters.” He’s been in the Oscar derby six times as an actor, winning twice, for “Glory” and “Training Day.”

Paramount marketing president Megan Colligan and her team shepherded “The Big Short” to five Oscar nominations including Best Picture and one Adapted Screenplay win last year, while “Selma” made it to Best Picture contention and a Best Song win the year before.

This year Paramount has a strong slate of potential contenders including Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” (November 10) starring Oscar perennial Adams and Jeremy Renner, which wowed audiences and critics at fall festivals, Bob Zemeckis’s World War II intrigue “Allied” (November 23), starring Brad Pitt, Lizzy Caplan and Marion Cotillard, and Martin Scorsese’s late-breaking period Japanese drama “Silence,” starring Liam Neeson, Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield, which opens December 23.

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Keep in mind that in the original Broadway show of “Fences,” which the author fails to mention, the wife character in “Fences” won Best Featured Actress. Davis is fine with the supporting run, as this might have helped her win for “Help,” but campaigned for lead. She will have another chance for winning a lead actress Oscar…..she just needs to win an Oscar…..period! Long-overdue.


    True. The part in the film may be trimmed down from play to supporting…

      The Other James D.

      Actually, from what I’ve read, her role was beefed up a bit from the original play for the film. But that being said, I had hoped she would make this decision and it’s wise. She’d be guaranteed a nomination either way, but I’m sure Michelle and Naomie are saying Fuuuuuuck while Emma is breathing a HUGE sigh of relief.


Agreed – there’s no egregious category fraud yet (unless the author of this article has miraculously already seen the movie?). The role on stage has always been borderline Leading/Supporting and the last time Davis was campaigned Leading for such a role she lost…


Davis was terrific in the play and should be equally good in the movie.

Heidi Haaland

You know you’ve really arrived when these are the conversations that are unfolding around a movie that hasn’t yet been released :) Hurrah, Viola Davis!


Really smart move by Davis and her team. Win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar first (in a much less competitive category) and with her upcoming bio pic in the works, snag a Best Actress Oscar then.

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