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An Academy Member’s Oscar Proposal: Add More Actors

Adding more nomination slots for actors could make a huge difference at the Oscars.

Viola Davis Oscars

Viola Davis

David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

Dear Board of Governors and members of the Academy,

Let’s face it!

Actors are the face of Oscar. Every year, I’m struck by how many more worthy performances there are than films. We often find more problems in movies we like — plot points not resolved, length issues — than we do with performances, which are more consistently flawless.

In other words, great performances are in more abundance than great films.

So why should the number of acting nominees be limited to five, rather than up to ten, as the maximum current Best Picture rules allow?  I propose increasing the number of acting nominees in all four categories, to be selected by the ENTIRE membership, with the number of acting nominations equaling the number of Best Picture nominees.

All of the many Academy members I canvassed, including members of the Acting branch, Oscar-winners and former Governors, agreed with this proposal.

The Academy should change the rules for the reasons below:

Alicia Vikander

Alicia Vikander

David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

Historic precedent

The precedent for increasing the Best Picture nominees in 2010 was the eight years when there were ten nominees, from 1936-1943. And over the decades the number of acting nominees have ranged from two to six.

Actors as much as films drive the awards —and attract viewers. With the concern over sustaining the viewership of the Oscar broadcast, an increased number of acting nominees would encourage a larger home audience.

Benefits of a larger field 

More nominees might discourage the gamesmanship of nominating major performances in supporting categories. Recent  “Best Supporting Performance in a Leading Role” candidates include Rooney Mara (“Carol”), Alicia Vicander (“The Danish Girl”) and this year’s winner Viola Davis (“Fences”).

Two starring roles in the same film do not have to cancel each other out: see Peter Finch and William Holden in “Network” or F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce in “Amadeus.”


Two-time Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland, two weeks after being devastated at not winning Best Supporting Actress for “Gone with the Wind,” said:

“My whole perspective changed. I realized why it was destined that I lose. I was nominated as best supporting actress but that was the wrong category. I wasn’t ‘supporting.’ I was the star, too. That was just a ploy by David [Selznick] on behalf of Vivien [Leigh]. Hattie [McDaniel] was supporting and she was the best. Plus, it was wonderful that she should win. Once I understood the system, I didn’t feel horrible at all.”

Further, opening the acting category could bring superb comedy and musical performances or dramatic roles with strong comedic aspects into prominence. There would be greater chances for members to look beyond the five dramatic roles which have dominated the acting nominations.

I’d argue in a deep acting field in all four acting categories last year, with more acting slots the following might have made the cut:

Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams and Shawn Levy at ‘Arrival’ photocall.


Amy Adams, whose intelligence and heart propelled “Arrival” to eight Oscar nominations; Indie Spirit Supporting Actor winner Ben Foster as the manic bank robber in “Hell or High Water”; Jake Gyllenhaal as three different characters in the same body in “Nocturnal Animals”; Jeannie Berlin, who lifted “Cafe Society” to side-splitting hilarity; and Warren Beatty, channeling Howard Hughes in a career-best performance that is equally dramatic and comedic in ‘Rules Don’t Apply.”

Others would argue for Joel Egerton (“Loving”), Annette Bening (“20th Century Women”), SAG nominee Emily Blunt (“The Girl on the Train”), Jessica Chastain (“Miss Sloane”), Rebecca Hall (“Christine”), Lily Collins (“Rules Don’t Apply”), Adam Driver (“Paterson”), SAG nominee Hugh Grant (“Florence Foster Jenkins”), Dave Johns (“I, Daniel Blake”),  Michael Keaton (“The Founder”), and Helen Mirren (“Eye in the Sky”) among others.

And the nagging issue of “diversity” would be mitigated by a larger field. Perhaps not left out of nominations would be Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae (“Hidden Figures”), Issei Ogata (“Silence”), Sunny Pawar (“Lion”), and David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o (“Queen of Katwe”).

Equality of opportunity is one thing, equality of outcomes another. What we can agree on is an embarrassment of talent. It’s time to spread the acknowledgment. —Mike Kaplan

(The actor, producer and movie poster collector has been a member of the Academy Publicity Branch for 41 years.)

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