Award Category Fraud
This actor plays the main character, but not in the eyes of the Oscar Voters.
Wherein the significance of a person's role (typically in a feature film) is downgraded. This is typically done when an actor or actress has been met with praise for their role, but have some shortcoming (ie. acting newcomer, young, first-time nominee, etc.) that would prevent them from recieving awards. So, in order to increase their chances at winning gold, they are entered into the awards races in (what are for some reason seen as) lesser categories in the supporting roles. Compare Billing Displacement and Protagonist Title Fallacy. Related to Oscar Bait.
- Hailee Steinfeld's role as Mattie Ross in The Coen Brothers' adaptation of True Grit, where despite being the main character (aside from Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn), and being in virtually every scene in the film, and being praised up and down for her work, was demoted by almost every single film awards association to "Best Supporting Actress".
- Jennifer Hudson as Effie White in Dreamgirls (the role is seen as a lead on stage and had earned Jennifer Holliday a Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Musical)
- Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly in Chicago (a similar situation to Dreamgirls where the role is seen as a lead on stage and previously earned an actress a Leading Tony [in this case Bebe Neuworth in the popular revival])
- Casey Affleck as Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was also nominated mainly as the supporting role.)
- Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond, nominated for Best Supporting Actor (while Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated as Lead), despite the fact that the entire story revolves around his quest to rescue his son.
- Jeff Bridges, generally considered the lead as the President in The Contender, especially since many expected Gary Oldman's villainous Senator to be nominated as Best Supporting Actor.
- Danny Aiello in Do the Right Thing, arguably a co-lead with Spike Lee, was nominated in Best Supporting Actor.
- Male lead William H. Macy was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Fargo, probably because he plays the lead antagonist.
- Haing S. Ngor won Best Supporting Actor for The Killing Fields, despite the fact that a large portion of the movie follows him and not Best Actor-nominated Sam Waterston.
- Geoffrey Rush won Best Actor for Shine, despite not having that much screen time.
- Anthony Hopkins set the record for shortest performance to win a Lead Actor Oscar when he won for his performance as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, which some considered to be a supporting role.
- Kevin Spacey won Best Supporting Actor for The Usual Suspects, where he played the clear lead. Some suspected this was because nominating him for his performance that same year in Seven would have been considered a spoiler.
- Enforced for the nominations for Gone with the Wind. Both Olivia de Havilland and Vivien Leigh were possible nominees for Best Actress, but the studio didn't want their two actress to compete and so pushed for deHavilland to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. This, however, came to naught when Hattie McDaniel instead won for her role, also from Gone With The Wind.
- Mary Badham was nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as "Scout" Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, despite being the clear main character of the film. Gregory Peck as her father won for Best Actor.
- Meryl Streep was nominated for Best Actress for The Devil Wears Prada, while the clear lead of the movie, played by Anne Hathaway, was given no recognition at all.
- Nicole Kidman won Best Actress for The Hours, an emsemble piece with no clear lead,
- An odd case: Kate Winslet was given many controversial precursor Best Supporting Actress awards for The Reader, and was expected to continue this at the Oscars, but she was instead nominated for Lead Actress, snubbing her own equally-acclaimed performance in Revolutionary Road (Oscar rules prohibit an actor being nominated twice in the same category)
- Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her clear lead role in Whale Rider at the Screen Actors Guild awards, but was later nominated in Best Actress at the Oscars.
- Similarly to Kate Winslet, Scarlett Johansson won a BAFTA award for her performance in Lost in Translation, where she had a smaller role than her other nominated performance from that year, in Girl with a Pearl Earring.
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