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‘Women Talking’ Star Rooney Mara to Campaign for Best Actress Amid Oscar Categorization Shifts

In a year where actors are bouncing around which categories to campaign in for the 2023 Oscars, Mara may have more justification to be seen as the lead of her ensemble.

Rooney Mara Women Talking

“Women Talking”

Michael Gibson

One of the last big questions surrounding this year’s Oscar acting categories has been answered: “Women Talking” star Rooney Mara will be campaigned for Best Actress, sources close to the campaign confirmed to IndieWire.

As there are no official rules from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences concerning which actor goes into what categories — it’s more of an honor system instead — this year in particular has seen lead and/or supporting actors moving all over the place in an effort to be campaigned where they will most likely receive an Oscar nomination.

Though Sarah Polley’s drama, which follows Mennonite women trying to make the decision on whether to leave or fight after the revelation that many of their colony’s men have been raping them over the course of years, is an ensemble piece, the film does lay the groundwork for Mara to be viewed as the lead. Her character Ona is both the focus of the narration that plays throughout, and the soul of the film, the one who considers the group’s every option with the most open heart.

The film also stars Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Michelle McLeod, Judith Ivey, Sheila McCarthy, and producer Frances McDormand.

Recently, Michelle Williams made the surprising move to campaign for Best Actress for her turn as the protagonist’s eccentric mother in Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans.” Like Mara’s move, there’s an argument to be made that the Williams categorization makes sense, as a core part of that film is her character’s entanglement with characters played by Paul Dano and Seth Rogen.

In terms of cases where there are clearly two leads, but one steps down to a supporting category in order to not compete with the other, this year’s awards season already includes one film that serves as an example of when it’s justified, and one film that’s sparked accusations of category fraud.

“The Banshees of Inisherin,” Martin McDonagh’s latest collaboration with his “In Bruges” stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, will see Farrell vying for Best Actor, while Gleeson will campaign for Best Supporting Actor. Though the film is mostly a two-hander, Farrell fits as a lead because the entire narrative is structured around his character’s pursuit of Gleeson’s character, as he attempts to mend their broken friendship. Farrell acts, Gleeson reacts.

Elsewhere, Maria Schrader’s “She Said” stars Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan as the two New York Times journalists who published the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2017 investigation into disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein. The film bounces between the two women’s points of view, though it ultimately starts and ends through Mulligan character’s eyes and she often feels like the dominant presence in the partnership. Still, Universal Pictures is pushing Kazan as the film’s Best Actress candidate, while Mulligan, a two-time Best Actress nominee, is to campaign for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

In a year of such spectacle, where fellow Best Actress contenders Cate Blanchett (“TÁR”) and Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) are blowing the roof off of theaters, it is hard to see Kazan’s tender work net the actress her first-ever Oscar nomination.

On the other side of the coin, Mulligan’s entry into supporting steamrolls over the chances that any of the other actual supporting actress performances in “She Said” gain recognition, and even puts in jeopardy the chances of some lesser-known actresses like “Triangle of Sadness” star Dolly De Leon or “The Banshees of Inisherin” star Kerry Condon being finally recognized by Hollywood in the form of awards attention.

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