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“I was promoting four films this year, two of which had huge platforms behind them and a lot of muscle. This is not one of those.”

Every year, when the Academy Award nominees get announced, there are always a couple of nominations that come out of the blue and become the outliers in the competition. Of course, that doesn’t suggest they shouldn’t be there. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: they become a pleasant surprise and suddenly have the potential to reach bigger audiences. That’s the case with To Leslie—and more specifically with its lead star Andrea Riseborough, whose unforgettable and heartbreaking performance as the title character landed her a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars in addition to her Best Lead Performance nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards.


A couple of weeks ago, Riseborough sat down with Collider’s own Perri Nemiroff to talk about To Leslie and other projects that she’s starred in. During the interview, Riseborough discussed the difference between being in big studio movies that easily reach broad audiences — like Netflix’s Matilda the Musical and 20th Century Studios’ Amsterdam and working on smaller projects like To Leslie that demand far more legwork. She said:

“I mean, it’s incredible … I was promoting four films this year, two of which had huge platforms behind them and a lot of muscle. This is not one of those. [Laughs] We’ve done a lot of legwork ourselves to basically share the film with the world, and that’s been really, actually, I wouldn’t change that for the world. It’s been so rewarding. And such an incredible experience to have so many personal conversations with people about this film and how it’s affected them in so many different ways … I think the real win for the film is that the [Spirit Award] nomination brings it to more people. It feels wonderful in every way for it to be recognized, for the performance to be recognized, for Ryan [Binaco] who really wrote this film as a love song to his own mother, who sadly is no longer with us.”

Andrea Riseborough talking and looking up in To Leslie
Image via Momentum Pictures

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Riseborough made that statement after receiving her Spirit Award nomination, but before becoming one of the biggest surprises of Oscar nomination morning. How’d they pull off the surprise (and well-deserved) Best Actress nomination? Not with a big budget but rather with a significant amount of peer support and word of mouth.

Riseborough noted that the lack of funding to keep up with the big studios during awards season isn’t the issue. The problem is overspending when mounting these campaigns.

“I’m thinking, it shouldn’t have more money, everything else should have less money … There are people struggling all over the place, and what we do is very, very expensive. I don’t personally think we need to spend more money, we need to spend less. And the idea that you can buy a voice, that you can buy how loud your message is is the most dangerous thing in the world, isn’t it? It’s led to all of the disasters. And it also makes a judgment on the audience that they are only willing to consume one of five things, as opposed to a plethora of many, many different things. How do we know what people want? We don’t. And it’s important to just offer everything up in a much less pushy way so that films like this get through.”

What Is To Leslie About?

To Leslie tells an incredible real-life story about a single mother who wins the lottery and then burns through all the prize money with drugs and alcohol. As she sinks into the depression, she tries to turn her life around before it’s too late. The movie is the feature directorial debut of Michael Morris, who previously helmed episodes of series like Better Call Saul, 13 Reasons Why, Kingdom, and Bloodline.

The movie got a single nomination at the Oscars, but the team’s work to promote it had excellent results. It was featured in the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards and in the Film Independent Spirit Awards. The National Board of Review also considered it one of the top ten best 2022 movies, and it took home two prizes at the Raindance Film Festival for Best Performance for Riseborough and the coveted Film of the Festival award.

You can watch Riseborough entire Collider Ladies Night conversation below:

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