The Weinstein Company has made it official, as if there was really any doubt who is a lead and who is supporting in its November 20 release, and Oscar hopeful, Carol.
No sooner had my flight back from the Toronto Film Festival landed at LAX than I received a call from TWC clarifying that it definitely will be campaigning Cate Blanchett for Lead Actress and Rooney Mara for Supporting. Ever since the TIFF debut to rave reviews and strong audience reaction on Saturday night of Blanchett’s other 2015 contender,Truth, there has been speculation that to avoid canceling herself out, the Weinstein Company and Sony Pictures Classics (which is releasing Truth on October 16) might try to avoid a Solomon’s or Sophie’s Choice here and shoehorn one or the other performance from Blanchett into supporting.
Confusion has reigned on this issue this year ever since the spectacular Cannes debut of Carol in May where it was Mara who took the Best Actress prize (in a tie with French actress Emmanuelle Bercot for Mon Roi), not Blanchett. Of course, Cannes does not make a distinction between lead and support; it simply gives a Best Actress prize. Some media types began spitballing that TWC might run Mara in lead and Blanchett in support. That’s ridiculous, as this is clearly a star role for Blanchett. She plays the title character and drives the action. Period. It is smart of TWC to end any speculation now and just go on with its campaign. When I spoke to SPC’s Co-President Michael Barker right after Truth’s debut, he refused to get drawn into this conversation and, as I pointed out, diplomatically said he thought both Blanchett performances were great but that her role as 60 Minutes producer Mapes in Truth also was definitely a lead. It’s an incredibly strong role and, unlike Carol, the person she is playing is real and still living. Mapes will be around to endorse her performance, always a plus.
Look, Blanchett — already a two-time Oscar winner, most recently for 2013’s Blue Jasmine, also from Sony Pictures Classic — is great in both parts. But it will be interesting to see how this goes down with the Academy, since even though her role in Carol has been the one talked about in terms of an Oscar play ever since Cannes, it will be Truth that gets a solid one-month jump on Carol in terms of release date. Most in the Academy’s actors branch have not seen Carol yet (it made its North American debut at Telluride over Labor Day but skipped TIFF and next will hit the fest circuit at the New York Film Festival this month), so it likely will be her performance in Truth that will be first out of the gate. That is unless Weinstein pulls a sneak attack and sends out the DVD screener in advance of Truth’s opening. It would be highly unusual to do that so far in advance of the Carol theatrical release, and most studios and distributors hold back sending to Academy voters until that time of release. Late-December qualifiers, where Carol initially was going to be launched before TWC moved it up a month, are a different story as you just can’t wait that long to get screeners out with Oscar nominating starting around then. Every movie has its own unique strategy, though. A small film like Carol doesn’t have the same trajectory as a big studio Christmas opener or even TWC’s 70MM Christmas launch of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.The Best Actress race is really heating up this year, and the Great Cate Race is just a fascinating new wrinkle for the long road ahead.