Could Daisy Ridley Get An Oscar Nod For 'The Force Awakens'? It's A Longshot, But Don't Rule It Out
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is breaking box office records left, right, and center, but there’s one more wall that I’d love to see this movie crash through. How cool would it be if The Force Awakens garnered an Oscar nomination for Daisy Ridley? Genre films don’t usually clean up in Academy Award nominations; the slate tends to fill up with character dramas, the occasional crime thriller, and maybe an indie comedy or two. But the performances in The Force Awakens deserve to be recognized, especially Ridley’s restrained and empathetic work as Rey, Jakku scavenger and Force-sensitive pilot.
I’m not holding my breath for the Academy to suddenly forget its bias against films that don’t tick all the boxes on the “award-worthy” movie checklist. But if any fantasy movie this year could force voters to sit up and pay attention, it’s The Force Awakens. A nod for Daisy Ridley would mean mainstream, critical acknowledgement that great acting happens in popcorn films too. And the star's job was a tough one. Rey barely has a backstory. There’s no reel-ready, showy monologue to explain her to the audience. But yet Ridley infuses the character with unmistakable courage and compassion. It's impossible not to root for her.
Nominations for sci-fi/fantasy roles are few and far between, but the Academy has included them in the race before. These seven Oscar nominated performances mean that while a nod for Daisy Ridley might be a longshot, it’s not totally implausible.
1. Kate Winslet For Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
I count the Charlie Kaufman/Michel Gondry romantic drama in the sci-fi/fantasy category, even though both Winslet and Jim Carrey's performances are painfully naturalistic. Eternal Sunshine is set in a universe where it's as easy as booking a spa appointment to forget a relationship gone sour, and the Academy nominated Kate Winslet for Best Leading Actress in 2004 because her work made that universe feel real.
2. Emma Stone For Birdman
Edward Norton and Michael Keaton, too. Oscars and Oscar nominations rained down on Alejandro Iñárritu's 2014 film about an ex-superhero actor trying for a comeback on the stage. Birdman mixes in elements of magical realism, meaning that the Academy might have an imagination after all.
3. Johnny Depp In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
It doesn't get more fantastical than a Tim Burton film, especially a musical where Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter team up to slaughter the neighbors they don't like and then bake them into pies.
4. Johnny Depp In Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl
Apparently, a genre nomination is only hard to get if you have the misfortune of not being Johnny Depp. Jack Sparrow is an excellent example of a character who connected (at least in his first outing) as much with critics as he did with multiplex audiences of all ages.
5. Toni Collette In The Sixth Sense
Collette and her movie son Haley Joel Osment received nominations in 1999 for their portrayals of a close-knit family affected by the supernatural instincts of the son. Yes, there was a time in movie history when an M. Night Shyamalan film carried some prestige. And though none of the director's films have been as well-received as The Sixth Sense, Collette's performance in this one is still worth remembering.
6. Ian McKellen In The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
If an all-powerful wizard from Middle Earth can pull in a nod, surely a budding Jedi knight can too.
7. Heath Ledger In The Dark Knight
Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his dangerous and deranged Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. It's useless to wonder whether his tragic and untimely death impacted voters, since it surely did. But Ledger unquestionably redefined a character with many well-known faces, leaving the Academy no choice but to throw their support behind a comic book movie for once.
Now that The Force Awakens has put Daisy Ridley on the map, she'll have many more opportunities to do Oscar-worthy work. But I haven't given up hope yet that voters will support her and her Star Wars co-stars this awards season.
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