Richard Curtis: Ferrell should have had Oscar nomination for Elf

By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter in Los Angeles

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Will Ferrell starred in the hugely popular Christmas film Elf in 2003

Screenwriter and director Richard Curtis has said it is a "real issue that comedy isn't respected as much" at key awards ceremonies like the Oscars.

The Love Actually director said awards voters often overlook the genre, "particularly the actors".

"I always get very antsy about the fact that Will Ferrell didn't get nominated for Elf," Curtis said at the Oscar Wilde Awards in Los Angeles.

"Or that Peter Sellers didn't get nominated for Inspector Clouseau."

He added: "But it's the price you pay, as it were. Comedies tend to make a bit of money, and then you don't get the prizes."

Curtis, who is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said he would have voted for Ferrell's performance in the hugely popular 2003 Christmas film, but "wasn't given the chance" because the actor was not nominated. 

Each category's nominees at the Oscars are decided by their own peers - which means actors can only be nominated by other actors. Then once nominations are announced, all Academy members can vote in every category. 

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Richard Curtis and wife Emma Freud attended the Oscar Wilde Awards on Thursday

Curtis added: "I think it's a real issue that comedy isn't respected as much... but I do try and push for comedy performances whenever I can."

The 65-year-old, who also wrote Notting Hill and co-wrote the adaptation of Bridget Jones's Diary, has only received one Academy Award nomination - for Four Weddings and Funeral's screenplay in 1994. 

This year, the satirical Don't Look Up is the only comedy among the 10 best picture nominees.

The film uses a deadly comet headed for Earth as a metaphor for climate change and the dangers of ignoring it, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence.

Its director Adam McKay told BBC News the comedic treatment was part of the reason so many A-list stars joined the film's cast.

"I think everyone was just excited to deal with these dark times with a sense of humour," he said. "So everyone just jumped on board right away. It was one of those crazy movies."

Don't Look Up is one of the most widely-seen film in a mixed best picture race this year.

Having bypassed cinemas, the movie found a sizeable audience on Netflix over Christmas and New Year. Netflix previously said it was the service's second most successful film to date, behind Red Notice.

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Adam McKay directed the Netflix satire Don't Look Up

"It's hard to tell from their numbers but it seems like a lot of people saw it," McKay said. "Conservatively, definitely in the hundreds of millions watched it. And from reactions around the world from Pakistan, Nigeria, Vietnam, Brazil, Ukraine, it's been really remarkable to see the world reaction to the movie."

Curtis and McKay were speaking at the Oscar Wilde Awards, an annual event that takes place just before the Academy Awards and aims to strengthen ties between Ireland and the US.

This is a particularly strong year for Irish talent and Irish-themed films, with Sir Kenneth Branagh's autobiographical Belfast nominated for six Oscars.

But it's uncertain how many of the cast will make it to the ceremony in LA, after several people behind the film caught Covid. 

Reflecting on awards season, Belfast star Jamie Dornan said: "It's just mad, there's a lot of commitments, a lot happening, people are excited.

"There are still all kinds of Covid protocols to jump through. No-one in the world is more Covid-tested than me in the last few months, it's been wild."

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Jamie Dornan says he has taken a "wild" number of Covid tests in recent months

Asked if best director nominee Sir Kenneth and best supporting actor nominee Ciarán Hinds would attend the ceremony, Dornan replied: "We're hoping so, I don't know, it's all going to be very last minute. 

"[Getting Covid] is the risk that you take from travelling around talking about this movie, going to the awards, going to the Baftas. The Baftas seem to be a wee bit of an event where a few people picked it up. 

"I've just been texting with Ciarán Hinds saying, 'Please tell me you're going to be OK for Sunday', because imagine the career he's had, and everything he's put in, and he's nominated for his first Oscar and can't go. That would be awful."

The big acting winner at Sunday's Academy Awards is expected to be Will Smith, who is likely to win his first Oscar for his performance in King Richard for playing the father of Venus and Serena Williams.

The film's director Reinaldo Marcus Green said "it would mean a lot" for Smith to win the film industry's top acting honour at this stage in his career.

"I'm a fan first, I grew up watching Will like everybody else, and to see him, I'm just rooting for him. To work with him, see his dedication, see how motivated he is, to put on the performance he did, he did the work."

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Reinaldo Marcus Green has directed Will Smith to potentially his first Oscar win

"I've always thought it was Will's time [to win an Oscar]. I thought it was Will's time from the moment I met him and we sat down for this role."

The Power of the Dog director Jane Campion was criticised recently when she said that Venus and Serena Williams don't have to compete against men in tennis matches in the same way she has to for film awards. 

She later apologised, saying it was "a thoughtless comment equating what I do in the film world with all that Serena Williams and Venus Williams have achieved".

Asked about the controversy, Green said: "I haven't spoken to anybody about it, and I think, like everybody, Jane is a master. I'm sure she meant no harm by that, and she apologised for it, so I think we've all moved on like everybody else and we're rooting for Jane too, Jane is a special film-maker."

But Campion's The Power of the Dog is still a strong best picture candidate, along with Apple TV's Coda. Either way, it means a streaming service could take home the best picture trophy for the first time.

McKay, whose film Don't Look Up is also a Netflix release, said: "I love seeing a movie in a theatre I will never back off that as an experience.

"But I also think we're learning there are a lot of diverse ways to see movies and especially with the pandemic, this could be the year for it, it definitely could, and I think it's valid, I think given what we've been through this would be a good year for it to happen."

The Oscars take place on Sunday 27 March.

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