LOS ANGELES — The best actress category at the 95th Oscars is full of great awards season drama, from the surprise nomination of Andrea Riseborough to the potential history to be made if Michelle Yeoh wins, which AP's film writers predict will happen.
All will be celebrated during Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, which airs live on ABC beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern. There’s still time to catch up on their performances before the show.
Here’s a bit more about the contenders.
ANA DE ARMAS
“Blonde” may have been reviled by many critics, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any who didn’t admire Ana de Armas’s portrayal of Marilyn Monroe nonetheless. De Armas prepped for a year and was thrown into the fire on her first day on set: In the actual apartment Norma Jeane lived in with her mother — a nightmare sequence in which she rescues a baby from the dresser drawer that she was kept in as an infant, as the place burns around her. Her second day was her visit to her mother in the mental hospital, where she got to speak as Marilyn for the first time on camera.
“I wasn’t in character all the time. But ... I felt that heaviness and that weight in my shoulders. And I felt that sadness,” de Armas said. “She was all I thought about. She was all I dreamed about. She was all I talked about.”
Trivia: De Armas is the first Cuban woman to be nominated for best actress.
“Tár” wouldn’t exist without Cate Blanchett because Todd Field, the writer and director, wouldn’t have done it with anyone else. That might be Hollywood bluster from most, but with Field you believe it. In the process of preparing to play Lydia Tár, the fictional conductor of a German orchestra, she’d learn to play piano, to speak German and conduct an orchestra, all of which she does really does in the film.
“I am still processing the experience, not only because it spoke to a lot of things that I had been thinking about, but I feel so expanded by having been in Todd’s orbit,” Blanchett said. “It was a very, very fluid, dangerous, alive process making the film.”
Lifetime Oscar nominations: 8
Wins: 2. Best Supporting Actress for “The Aviator” in 2005 and Best Actress for “Blue Jasmine” in 2014
Notable Wins: Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup, BAFTA, Golden Globes (Drama).
Riseborough was unexpectedly nominated for her performance as an alcoholic Texas single mother in the scantly seen indie drama “To Leslie,” a pick that shocked Oscar pundits and resulted in an investigation into campaigning techniques by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
Riseborough rose into the Oscar ranks thanks largely to the grassroots efforts of “To Leslie” director Michael Morris and his wife, actor Mary McCormack. They urged stars to see the film and either host a screening or praise Riseborough’s performance on social media. And a whole lot of them did: Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amy Adams and Courteney Cox all hosted screenings for the film.
After a review of the campaign, the Academy said that Andrea Riseborough would not be stripped of her nomination.
The pivotal event of “The Fabelmans” comes when Mitzi Fabelman, a fictionalized version of Steven Spielberg’s own mother played by Michelle Williams, reluctantly leaves her husband for his best friend.
“I thought she already suffered a near-death experience. When she gave up her dream of being a concert pianist, she experienced what it’s like for part of you to die,” says Williams. “So when she’s faced with another near-death experience — Do I stay in this marriage or do I allow myself to go where my heart is leading? — she knows that she can’t die again. There will be nothing left of her.
“What is this thing in her that allows her to make this decision? Is it her artistry? Is it bravery? Is it how big her emotions are? What allowed this woman to stake a claim on her life like this?” says Williams. “I don’t know but I do think it’s what’s allowed her children to do the same thing, to stake a claim on their own lives. That, I think, is one of the greatest gifts that you give to your kids, showing them how they can be a full person.”
Lifetime Oscar Nominations: 5
After decades first as a star in Hong Kong cinema and then more mainstream hits like “Tomorrow Never Dies” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” the Malayasian-born Yeoh has grown into a movie queen. She’s had integral roles in what have been the first large U.S. studio movies in years with Asian-led casts—Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” and “Crazy Rich Asians.” As much as those films mean to her, she was a polished supporting player in them — then came “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”
The Daniels originally named the multiverse hopping matriarch Michelle, as a “love letter” to Yeoh. But then she asked to change that and Evelyn was born.
“I’m like ‘No, no, no’ because I believe this person, this character that you’ve written so rich, deserves a voice of her own. She is the voice of those mothers, aunties, grandmothers that you pass by in Chinatown or in the supermarket that you don’t even give a second glance to. Then you just take her for granted,” Yeoh said. “She’s never had a voice.”
Trivia: If Yeoh were to win, she would become the first Asian woman awarded in that category.
Notable Wins: Golden Globes (Musical/Comedy), Screen Actors Guild, Film Independent Spirit Award.