Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore are splitting up their Oscar campaigns for awards season.
Although Todd Haynes’ delicious drama “May December” is interpreted by many as a two-hander, Netflix confirms to Variety exclusively that Portman will be submitted for lead actress consideration, while Moore will vie for supporting actress.
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Co-leads from awards contenders are seldom campaigned alongside one another. One of Haynes’ most beloved films, the love story “Carol” (2015) starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, was famously criticized for separating its two presumed leading performers for its respective awards season. Blanchett was nominated in lead with Mara in supporting. While it can be debated for awards enthusiasts, there are only five instances of two women being nominated for the same movie in the Oscars’ 95-year history. The last was Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon for “Thelma & Louise” (1991).
“May December” tells the story of an actress, Elizabeth Berry (Portman), who is set to portray Gracie Atherton-Yoo (Moore), a Georgia woman who became a notorious tabloid figure when she engaged in a sexual relationship with a 12-year-old boy, Joe. Twenty years after the scandal, Elizabeth visits Gracie and a now 36-year-old Joe (Charles Melton) to prepare for her role, exposing the fractures beneath their carefully constructed surface.
Portman and Moore are among Hollywood’s most acclaimed and respected actresses. Portman has landed three Oscar noms throughout her career: supporting actress for Mike Nichols’ “Closer” (2004) and lead actress for Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie” (2016) and Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” (2010). She won for her performance as a tormented ballet dancer in Aronofsky’s drama.
The official PGA-credited producers are still pending; however, if Portman is among those that would be eligible to receive a best picture nomination, she would be one of three women this year seeking double noms for acting and producing — the others are Margot Robbie for “Barbie” and Emma Stone for “Poor Things.” Frances McDormand is only woman to be nominated in best picture and actress in the same year for “Nomadland” (2020). She won both categories.
Moore has landed five Oscar noms across her decades-long career, including another collaboration with Haynes: his gorgeous period drama “Far from Heaven” (2002). Her other noms have been for best supporting actress in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” (1997) and Stephen Daldry’s “The Hours” (2004), as well as best actress in Neil Jordan’s “The End of the Affair” (1999) and Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s “Still Alice” (2014), for which she won for her stunning turn as a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Despite a filmography that cinephiles adore, Haynes has only been able to muster a single nom over his career for best original screenplay (“Far from Heaven”). The team at Netflix is determined to get the auteur his first nom for directing after multiple snubs for “Velvet Goldmine” (1997), “I’m Not There” (2007) and most notably “Far from Heaven” and “Carol.”
For his performance as the fragile husband at a crossroads, the talented Melton — named one of Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch this year — will seek consideration in supporting actor.
In addition to best picture, directing and acting, the movie will also be submitted for consideration in the technical races, notably cinematography (Christopher Blauvelt), costume design (April Napier) and editing (Affonso Gonçalves). Although a highlight, the music by Marcelo Zarvos won’t be eligible for original score because much of the music was adapted from the film “The Go-Between” by Michel Legrand.
“May December,” which was co-written by Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik, will open the New York Film Festival with its North American premiere. In addition, Haynes and his longtime producer, Christine Vachon, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for Collaboration at the Mill Valley Film Festival.
After premiering at the Cannes Film Festival and receiving rave reviews, Netflix acquired the film for $11 million.
In Variety’s review, Peter Debruge writes: “As layered and infinitely open-to-interpretation as any of his films, it’s also the most generous and direct, beginning not with Ingmar Bergman references (those come later), but with ripe hothouse footage of monarch butterflies, underscored by a lush reworking of Michel Legrand’s piano theme from “The Go-Between.” The potential for passion, transformation and subversion hangs heavy in the air.”
The movie is scheduled to open theatrically on Nov. 17 before it debuts on Netflix on Dec. 1.
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