Melissa Leo Likes Herself! She Really, Really Likes Herself!

We're in the dark heart of Oscar season now, where desperate moves become common and the studios are looking to sink their knives in their opponents any which way they can; whisper campaigns about verisimilitude, anti-Semitism, or Fascist leanings are trotted out to try to discredit the other guy. It's a sad, nasty business, but it's taken an odd turn with Melissa Leo's personal campaign ads for her own role in The Fighter. It's a vanity campaign that might sabotage her front-runner status.

Even though she's won a considerable amount of awards for her performance as Alice Ward -- including the Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award, the New York Film Critics Circle Award, and the Critics Choice Award -- Melissa Leo has taken it upon herself to launch a personally-funded media blitz for the Academy Award. In one ad, she's glammed up in glitter, bending at the waist and looking directly at the camera; in the other, she's casually propped up by a crystal blue pool, decked out in a full-length white faux fur coat, looking like a Dallas drag queen out for a Sunday stroll. There's no mention of her role in The Fighter, but only the word "Consider" at the top. They resemble less a movie campaign and more like the world's crappiest Country Inspirational album cover.

helenabonham carter_globes_225.jpgFrankly, the first time I saw the ad I was perplexed. Leo is the front-runner, so why would she feel it necessary to sink such effort into such a brazen act of neediness? It honestly seems like a gag from a Hollywood parody like Larry Sanders or For Your Consideration -- the attention-starved actress, not content with her near-universal acclaim, launches a personal campaign wherein she poses with adorable koalas or a basket full of orphans to make SURE that everyone sees her and loves her. It's a cliche of ego run amok.

Speaking to sister site Deadline, Leo claims that she was upset that she wasn't booking magazine covers as she feels merits her station, a snub that she attributes to age-ism. A charge which I simply don't buy -- there is certainly a negative attitude towards older women, but Sandra Bullock, who is just four years younger than Leo's 50, has no trouble appearing on scores of magazines. In the words of a wise man, Melissa, maybe the magazines just aren't that into you.

And if they weren't before, then I can't imagine this vanity campaign is doing much to change their minds. It's got the whiff of desperation all over it. And that desperation, again, is peculiar because Leo practically had the Oscar in the bag -- Vegas has her as the odds-on favorite to win -- so why jeopardize things with a tone-deaf "I am awesome!" ad? Separate from the campaigns, Oscar nominees themselves usually comport themselves with a modicum of class and restraint, not show up on Academy voters' doorstep, desperately busking for tips.

helenabonham carter_globes_225.jpgUltimately, it's her campaign. Whether the "Consider..." campaign will backfire and cost her the Oscar or if it's just the latest escalation in an increasingly crazy Oscar season will only be seen come February 27th. If nothing else, I'm happy it's thrown into confusion what was previously a foregone conclusion in a locked-up category. And who knows, as she accepts the Oscar from the podium, some other actress might give her most heartfelt thanks to Melissa Leo and her misguided ad.


  • William says:

    Hope it backfires... This action is as unsympathetic as her character in the movie. Give it to Amy Adams or Hailee Steinfeld. Found their performance much stronger anyway. It was interesting for me to see how her colleagues reacted when she won the golden globe...very very reserved....

  • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

    This is exactly the opening Jacki Weaver needed. Thanks, lady!

  • Paul says:

    For Mr. Gaines to equate Melissa Leo's ability to get magazine covers with that of Sandra Bullock is very far off-base. Clearly there's a huge difference between the two women. Bullock, of course, is a leading-lady star. She's big box-office and her name alone sells tickets. Leo - until resurfacing in Frozen River - hadn't been heard from since her long ago - Homicide: Life on the Streets - TV work. So she rightly feels the need to blow her on horn because she knows she can't compete with the Sandy Bullock's of the world in terms of magazine attention. I don't think the Academy voters will be put off by her campaign one bit. Because they know what's happening in Hollywood's popularity wars.

  • milessilverberg says:

    I agree that the Bullock comparison was rather inept. For one thing, Bullock doesn't look her age, which reinforces rather than refutes Leo's claims. Second, Bullock is a force of nature in the business, not just an actress but a mini-mogul with power and clout, which is how Hollywood can respect her enough to give her an Oscar for a glorified TV movie. (I'm not knocking her, I love Sandra, but even she wondered in her speech about why she received the award).
    The disparity in the Hollywood food chain between Bullock and Leo is why Leo felt desperate enough to do the ad. She didn't do it to get an Oscar; she felt she had to do it to get more work, since the awards weren't helping her cause enough.

  • Dixon Gaines says:

    Leo is the one that brought up ageism, talking about "women of a certain age" had trouble landing magazine covers. The presence of Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren and scores of other women shows that it's not as impossible as Leo seems to think. If Leo's complaint is that she's not as popular as Bullock -- well, shit, that's Hollywood and that's life, and I don't see how a ticky-tacky photo from a Sears' Portrait Studio of her lolling around the pool in Don King's hand-me-down fur coat is supposed to change all that.

  • Kate Erbland says:

    More than anything, I find it bizarre that she would not use a still from the film. The glammed-up-ness (go with it) of the ads is in direct opposition to the role AND she looks nothing like her character - unrecognizable if you're not paying attention.
    It's also odd that she would personally pay for such ads. Typically, FYC ads come from studios, agencies, management, etc. For none of those "people" to place an ad shows that they didn't think it was needed - a lead she should have followed.

  • milessilverberg says:

    Certainly there are "scores" of other women in Leo's age bracket. Part of her point is that there aren't scores of good roles available to divvy up between these scores of actresses of a certain age, at least ones that don't involve putting on a ratty wig and squabbling with a hubby named Cletus in a trailer.
    Of course it would have been smarter if she had thought to do this before awards season ever started, or waited until after the Oscars, win or lose. And that she got a better dress, makeup artist and photographer. (Holy crap, she looked like a clown had made her up on Oprah the other day). So yeah, Fail on the execution, but I still think there a message in all this that shouldn't be so easily dismissed.

  • milessilverberg says:

    As she explained in the interview, this ad wasn't a campaign for any award. It was a campaign for industry types to imagine her in a wider variety of roles.

  • Kate Erbland says:

    That seems even more bizarre to me - an even more pronounced, "hey, my people aren't doing their job" type thing. If Leo wants wider consideration, that's something she should tell her agent. I just - I find it very weird, especially because I consider Leo such a talent as is.

  • Wellie says:

    I know this is "Team Jackie" territory, and Melissa Leo chewed scenery in "The Fighter" like some sort of Tasmanian Devil, but as a longtime "Homicide: Life On The Streets" fan I'm rooting for her. (If you want to see a portrayal of a tough-as-nails working-class broad, with glimpses of vulnerability do check her out as "Detective Kay Howard" in Seasons 2-4. Plus you get to see Andre Braugher at his absolute best, AND Richard Belzer originate the character "Munch" she still plays on SVU.)
    Were the ads kinda tacky and ill-advised? Yes. But I think it's coming from sincere desire to strike while the iron is hot and keep her career momentum going. I heard her in an interview w/ NPR's "Fresh Air" talking about how difficult it's been for networks, directors, & casting agents to see past the gritty roles she's played, I don't fault her for wanting a little attention while looking glamorous.

  • Citizen Bitch says:

    what perfume is this for again?

  • Zoe says:

    The photo of Helena Bonham Carter's reaction bitchface made me laugh. She just doesn't give a flying squirrel.

  • KT says:

    Someone just pointed out to me that she is having her PDiddy moment, haha! Maybe it's all tongue in cheek. It's so tacky that it like she is saying she doesn't care what anyone thinks, really. And if she's kidding - I hope - then she should get more comedic roles and this lady is funny and gutsy ;)-