From the outside, it looked like Steven Spielberg’s political biopic would walk the Oscars, but canny campaigning saw Ben Affleck‘s Iran-hostage drama pip it at the post. Here’s how they did it

Argo and Lincoln

Head to head … Argo and Lincoln

Argo‘s yo-yo awards season ended on an upswing on Sunday as the Tehran yarn clinched the Big Kahuna of movie honours. Ben Affleck‘s third outing as director endured the proverbial rollercoaster ride over the past five months and the Warner Bros crowd will be partying late into the night after winning best picture. This was the first time since Driving Miss Daisy in 1989 that the prize had gone to a movie whose director had not been nominated for an Oscar.

  1. Argo
  2. Production year: 2012
  3. Country: USA
  4. Cert (UK): 15
  5. Runtime: 120 mins
  6. Directors: Ben Affleck
  7. Cast: Alan Arkin, Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Christopher Denham, Clea DuVall, John Goodman, Kerry Bishe, Rory Cochrane, Scoot McNairy, Tate Donovan, Victor Garber
  8. More on this film

The popular narrative of what has been an unusually high-calibre awards season is that Argo – the people’s favourite – snuck in at the eleventh hour to swipe the best picture prize from Lincoln. Not so. Argo never lost its high standing among voters and maintained its campaign momentum – albeit in a more nuanced manner in recent weeks – despite the mighty efforts of the publicity machine behind Steven Spielberg‘s august history lesson.

The campaign machine was chugging along nicely and then on 8 October, four days before Argo was due to open in US cinemas, Lincoln premiered at the New York film festival. Spielberg was about to throw a spanner in the works. Suddenly Argo was no longer the name on everyone’s lips. Lincoln was being hailed in some quarters as a masterpiece, perhaps Spielberg’s best since Schindler’s List. Hollywood lined up to kneel before the altar of Daniel Day-Lewis. An air of invincibility coalesced around Lincoln as the first awards groups prepared to announce their winners.

Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln was a match made in prestige movie heaven and the Anglo-Irish actor dominated his category, earning accolades from just about every awards group including the influential Screen Actors Guild, the largest voting block in the Academy. He duly won his third lead actor Oscar on Sunday and became the first man to do so. Spielberg did not make it on to the winners’ podium and, in a rare surprise on the night, had to watch as Ang Lee won best director for Life of Pi.

Read more here: http://bit.ly/XvUPak

By the start of the year Lincoln had garnered the most Golden Globe and Oscar nominations and was the perceived frontrunner. This suited the Argo camp, which wanted their contender to be the marginal underdog. At the Golden Globes in January, Lincoln suffered its first public reversal as Argo prevailed in the best dramatic picture contest and Affleck beat Spielberg in the directing category.

Two weeks later, over the course of one heady weekend, Argo delivered a one-two punch to land best picture at the Producers Guild of America and best ensemble cast at the Screen Actors Guild. On 3 February Affleck became only the third person to win the DGA award without an Oscar nomination. Two weeks later Chris Terrio won the WGA’s adapted screenplay honour. The votes for successive shows had already been cast. The late cascade of prizes may have seemed like people were suddenly championing Argo, but in reality the movie’s enduring pedigree never wavered and Hollywood had made up its mind.

 

Advertisements