As the actors strike finally came to an end on Wednesday night, the celebrations of some — namely, awards-contending talent and awards campaigners — were tempered by a certain amount of stress, given that many will now have to cram months’ worth of campaigning into just a few weeks.
Some weren’t and won’t be terribly affected by the strike. For instance, the Barbie and Oppenheimer teams did a heavy round of promotion just before the work stoppage began, and the Napoleon and The Color Purple teams won’t even begin showing their cards until next week. Additionally, a number of other contenders were exempt from the rules of the strike because their distributors had signed interim agreements with SAG-AFTRA and/or because they were made outside of the U.S. and therefore not subject to guild rules — that was certainly a boon for titles like A24’s The Zone of Interest, Past Lives and Priscilla, Bleecker Street’s Golda, Neon’s Anatomy of a Fall and Ferrari and IFC’s Monica.
But the rollout of the majority of awards hopefuls was undoubtedly impacted by the sidelining of their most obvious selling points: their stars. Consequently, many directors took on a heavier than usual promotional schedule — among them, May December’s Todd Haynes, The Holdovers’s Alexander Payne and even Killers of the Flower Moon’s legendary 80-year-old helmer Martin Scorsese. And, in many cases, below-the-line artists were called upon to help carry the load, too.
Now, though, with the strike over, a mad dash has begun to relieve — or at least support — those folks with actors who, under normal circumstances, would have already been omnipresent at film festivals, junkets, screenings, Q&As and receptions, not to mention in the press.
Indeed, publicists went into action the minute — in some cases, literally — the strike’s end was announced, pitching awards hopefuls to THR for interviews, stories, podcasts and roundtables. Also bombarded: the bookers of daytime talk shows, late-night talk shows and Saturday Night Live. And now a push is underway to find spots for talent at any other place where industry voters and tastemakers may be, or may be watching, to try to make up for lost time ahead of Oscar nomination voting, which will span Jan. 11 through Jan. 16.
Speaking of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, that organization can now confidently count on a massive turnout of A-listers at two big events that it already had to postpone once: its Governors Awards, which will take place on Saturday, Nov. 18; and its Academy Museum Gala, which is set for Sunday, Dec. 3. And it no longer has to contemplate pushing back its 96th Oscars ceremony from its announced date of March 10, 2024 (submission forms, including inclusion standards paperwork required for best picture eligibility, are due next Wednesday), or going into an Oscars telecast with films that the general public has barely heard anything about (which, needless to say, would not be helpful for ratings).
The Academy is but one of several awards bodies that actors and campaigners are quickly mobilizing to target. A heavy focus is also on the SAG Awards nominating committee, a group of 2,500 randomly selected members of the guild who will determine the SAG Awards nominations (through voting that will take place between Dec. 18 and Jan. 7) from which the full guild will pick winners. Given the abbreviated season, the SAG Awards is now allowing only three SAG nom-com screenings per project, rather than the usual four, and campaigners are preparing for a bare-knuckle fight to secure dates for those screenings when the SAG Awards’ scheduling portal, which opened in early October last year, finally opens on Monday. (Says one, “It’s like The Hunger Games; you are in the calendar watching the dates get taken.” Adds another, “You get the dates you get, and then you have to reverse-engineer to get the talent.”)
Given that awards ceremony presenters get introduced with the name of their current project, just like awards ceremony nominees, and often get even more time on stage, one can also probably expect more star wattage than usual among the presenters at Jan. 4’s Palm Springs International Film Festival awards gala; Jan. 7’s Golden Globe Awards, which we hear will announce a broadcasting partner in short order; Jan. 11’s National Board of Review Awards gala in New York; and Jan. 14’s Critics Choice Awards, which will air on The CW. You might even see Oscar contenders present at the Emmys — something that the calendar doesn’t permit in a normal year — on Jan. 15, the night before Oscar nomination ballots are due.
A big wild-card now is if/how the strike will impact the prospects of streamers, and those associated with them, in this year’s awards race. Fairly or not, many actors — and other industry constituencies who were also kept out of work by the actors strike — have spent months regarding the streamers as their enemy; now, they will be asked to consider their content for awards, and, in some cases, to attend a SAG Awards ceremony on Feb. 24 that will, for the first time, be streamed live on Netflix. One school of thought is that streamers, whose output some awards voters resisted even before the strike, will face a particularly uphill climb this season. Another, though, is that, with their deep pockets and direct pipeline into the homes of voters, they are better equipped than their competitors to quickly get on the radar of voters.
Regardless, get ready to see a lot of Margot Robbie, Bradley Cooper, Annette Bening, Robert Downey Jr., Lily Gladstone, Colman Domingo, Rosamund Pike, Mark Ruffalo, Emma Stone, Andrew Scott, Julianne Moore, Paul Giamatti, Natalie Portman, Cillian Murphy and Jodie Foster — and maybe even of more reluctant campaigners like Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Ryan Gosling.
Says one high-level campaigner, “There are only so many screening rooms and first and second guests on talk shows, so now we’re going to see people do outside-the-box things,” adding, “You have to remember, some people get bonuses based on how well their movie does or what awards they get, so actors are going to be out there for sure. There are already plenty of memes about how thirsty people are going to be.”
The race, at long last, is truly on.