This year, Frances McDormand has picked up a lot of awards for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. As of the writing of this piece, she is the front-runner to take home the Best Actress award at this year’s Academy Awards. She’s shaken a lot of hands, air-kissed a lot of faces, and walked onto various stages to meet different figures as they hand her a new piece of hardware.
Here she is picking up Best Actress in a Drama at the Golden Globes from Angelina Jolie and Isabelle Huppert.
Here she is, last night, picking up Best Actress at the SAG Awards from Halle Berry.
She’s also nominated for the Independent Spirit Awards and the BAFTAs. Traditionally, the winner of last year’s Best Actor award presents the trophy to this year’s honouree. Call me suspicious, but isn’t it fascinating that we’re not seeing that happen this year?
So where is Casey Affleck hiding?
A few months ago, when the Weinstein case first broke down those doors and started hundreds of much needed conversations, I said on Twitter that I believed Affleck, who won Best Actor for Manchester by the Sea would suddenly come down with a case of scheduling conflicts. These ‘filming issues’ would prevent him from doing any awards show duties, and thus sparing some woman the awkwardness of having to pretend to like him (bless you, Brie Larson). His representatives don’t seem to have confirmed any filming or such that explains his absence, but they don’t need to. The message is clear.
Casey Affleck won Best Actor not just because his performance was liked. He won because he, his representatives, his brother Ben and his producer/friend Matt Damon helped to mount a massively detailed and unstoppable awards campaign in his favour. He did every round-table, he got lovingly profiled on CBS Sunday Morning, he kept his divorce and kids out of the limelight, he guest-hosted SNL, he talked adoringly of the craft of art and how lucky he was. Most importantly, he got his team to ensure he wouldn’t have to deal with being asked about that sexual harassment lawsuit. The New York Times brought it up in a couple of lines in an otherwise adoring profile, and even then the framing was decidedly pro-Casey. For fear of losing access, for true love of his work or for just plain old convenience, the status quo remained firmly in place. He sailed to a near clean awards sweep and took home Best Actor. Brie Larson’s refusal to applaud him was the small but mighty protest many of us dearly craved.
Now, things are different. The problem is impossible to ignore, and journalists now have a duty to ask about these issues. We’ve seen the mess that happens when actors walk the red carpet unprepared for these questions. It’s clear Affleck and his team have been smart enough to know that he should sit this out. Perhaps he’s been embarrassed enough into submission. I doubt it. He’ll still get work, he’ll still do acclaimed movies and be interviewed on the talk-show circuit, where he knows he’ll never be asked those questions. Maybe he won’t be able to escape it in future profiles and the like, but ultimately, he’ll be fine. His absence is felt, but it’s not missed.