Danielle Brooks and Taraji P. Hensonfeatured artists from Blitz Bazawule’s bold reimagining of Alice Walker’s beloved novel “The color Purple”, compete for recognition in a fiercely competitive career as a supporting actress.
After three consecutive days of screenings in Los Angeles, the film earned enthusiastic applause from voters, critics and industry professionals, raising burning questions about the potential awards prospects for Brooks as the fiercely independent Sofia or Henson as the sultry singer. by blues Shug Avery.
Could they both get nominations? And if so, could any of them claim the coveted statuette? Knowledge of Oscar history offers some clues.
In February 1940, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for its twelfth annual ceremony. Among the supporting actress nominees were two “Gone with the Wind” actresses: Olivia de Haviland and eventual Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel, who made history as the first black person to win an Academy Award. This marked the inaugural case in which two actresses from the same film were recognized in the category. Since then, 35 of the 95 Oscar ceremonies have had two supporting actresses nominated for the same film, and 13 winners have emerged from these stages. The most recent example was Jamie Lee Curtis for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” alongside co-star Stephanie Hsu. Among the four acting categories, supporting actress remains the most open to double nominations for a single film.
During the post-screening Q&A session at Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center, attended by Brooks, Henson and cast members Fantasia Barrino and Corey Hawkins, the audience’s fervent response indicated the two standout performers were clear favorites.
Henson’s portrayal of Shug, a role that previously earned Margaret Avery a nod in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film, features a new interpretation. In musical numbers like “Push Da Button,” Henson’s vibrant, larger-than-life personality shines brightest. Reflecting on the director’s vision for her adaptation, the Oscar-nominated actress for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008) expressed her deep gratitude and commented that she and the cast were deeply moved by the uniqueness of the project. Henson emphasized: “That doesn’t happen on every project. It’s pure magic. “I’ve been lucky enough to experience this more than once, but this one was special.”
Henson rose to fame as a pregnant prostitute with a musical gift in “Hustle and Flow” (2005), then gained significant recognition for her nominated role in Fincher’s film, which later propelled her to stardom with her portrayal of the dynamic Emmy nominated. Cookie on the television show “Empire.” The industry is eagerly awaiting another award for her stellar performance, especially after her impactful turn as NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson in “Hidden Figures” (2016), a best picture nominee and SAG ensemble winner. Her support potential within the Actors Branch seems promising.
While stepping into Avery’s shoes may seem daunting for Henson, imagine the monumental task of taking on a role previously played by Oprah Winfrey.
As Harpo’s (Hawkins) feisty, no-nonsense wife, Brooks’ Sofia positions herself as the hopeful, cheerful anchor in a narrative that is at times thematically weighted, yearning for moments of levity. Brooks accomplishes this with aplomb in sequences like “Hell No,” reminiscent of the striking “Cell Block Tango” from the best picture-winning musical “Chicago,” which featured supporting actress winner Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Brooks’ attachment to the musical source material runs deep after participating in the Broadway show from 2015 to 2017. She recalled “crying” when she saw the original version of the show because it starred Black performers. “It was the first time I saw people who looked like me in this professional environment,” Brooks says. “I was thinking ‘Oh my God, there’s a place for me.'” With great love, she is also simply “trying to learn how to receive this love.”
Brooks, less recognized in Hollywood circles, is best known for her portrayal of inmate Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson in the Netflix drama series “Orange Is the New Black.” Her magnetism and standout moments could easily captivate voters’ attention, mirroring the recent success of a musical supporting winner: Ariana DeBose in “West Side Story” (2021).
While many have followed her path through award-worthy performances like Mahalia Jackson in the Lifetime TV movie “Mahalia” and the HBO Max superhero series “Peacemaker” alongside John Cena, she and her co-stars must gain momentum as one of the last films to consider, something that is not always easy to execute in a campaign.
With Spielberg and Winfrey as producers, “The Color Purple” faces no obstacles in attracting voters to see it. However, musicals often face gender bias, which could pose a potential challenge. The original 1985 film holds some records in Academy history: It tied with “The Turning Point” (1977) for the most losses (zero out of 11) and remains the only film to secure three black acting nominations from a single movie. Will the film be able to replicate this historic feat with Fantasia Barrino in the iconic role?
The precursor season will illuminate the prospects. What remains true is that the film’s path to recognition in the best picture category depends on its acting nominations. Can both Brooks and Henson get the nod? Perhaps, but current early reactions suggest Brooks is the stronger contender. The cast embarks on international screenings in London this weekend, recognizing the crucial influence this voting bloc has on the Oscar awards.
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