For her portrayal as Princess Diana in Pablo Larraín’s fable about the tragic royal, the 31-year old actor has led the tally in critics’ prizes. On the circuit, since “Spencer” debuted at the Venice Film Festival in late summer, she catapulted to the forefront of the best actress race after rave reviews. However, being the front-runner for so long can have its downside. Just ask people like Glenn Close of “The Wife” (2017) or the producing team behind “La La Land” (2016). In this biz, timing is everything.
So what caused Stewart’s absence from the ballots of SAG’s 2,500 Nom Comm voters?
Aside from perhaps peaking too early, the movie — penned by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Steven Knight — isn’t a standard cozy-up-next-to-your-loved-one kind of flick. Instead, the Neon and Topic Studios release takes risks in its dream sequences and has dark undertones while not following a conventional plot — which some Academy voters shared left them cold.
Stewart has undertaken a long and hard-fought journey from the pop culture damsel of the “Twilight” saga to an esteemed and technically dedicated thespian — something not all of her peers have acknowledged or accepted. This, despite demonstrations of her skill and technique in films like “Personal Shopper” and “Still Alice.” She even made history as the first American to win a César Award for “Clouds of Sils Maria” (2014), yet failed to gain traction with larger awards groups.
For her turn as Diana, she’s picked up nearly 20 wins, more than three times as many as her competitors. The closest to her in the tally is “Licorice Pizza’s” Alana Haim, who also missed SAG. Even though Stewart finds herself fighting for recognition, her campaign remains sturdy and hopeful that her work will speak to the acting branch, the largest of all the branches of the Academy.
But what her fans want to know is whether it’s still possible for her to stand onstage at the Dolby Theatre with a statuette in hand?
Stats are made to be broken, but in the 27-year history of the SAG Awards, no leading performance has been able to pull off a win at the Oscars without a mention from the key guild. In fact, only three performers — across all acting categories — have done it: Marcia Gay Harden for “Pollock” (2000), Christoph Waltz for “Django Unchained” (2012) and Regina King for “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018).
We saw a different actress win at every televised ceremony leading up to the Academy Awards – Andra Day (Golden Globes), Carey Mulligan (Critics Choice), Viola Davis (SAG) and Frances McDormand (BAFTA). Vanessa Kirby was the only one that didn’t pick up a major precursor, and in the end, the BAFTA winner emerged victoriously.
If Stewart is looking to take home the statuette against Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”), Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”) or Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”), a place like BAFTA is the most crucial precursor she can strive to achieve before Oscar voting begins on Jan. 27. With that said, the Actors’ Branch is the largest of the Academy and can genuinely come to the aid of someone they feel is struggling for recognition (i.e., Isabelle Huppert in “Elle”).
She may be down, but she’s not out.