the gold rush

Reconsidering How We Considered Melissa Leo’s ‘Consider …’ Campaign

Photo: Melissa Leo (Advertisement)

It’s hard to believe it’s been exactly a decade since Melissa Leo asked us to Consider. CONSIDER. Consider what, you might wonder? If you have to think about it, you’re not considering it. You can’t think of it like a question. You just consider. And that’s it. In this instance, Leo championed herself for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in David O. Russell’s The Fighter. Yes, I’m talking about Melissa Leo’s “Consider …” campaign of 2011. Ten years ago. A decade. A tenth of a century. It’s time to revisit. It’s time to celebrate. It’s time to, once again, consider.

At the time, Leo — then 50 years old and relatively new to being buzzed about in Hollywood — had already won Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and Critics’ Choice awards for her charred, sinister, and deeply devastating portrayal of Alice Eklund-Ward in The Fighter. Her chances for an Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actress seemed promising, if not exactly guaranteed.

It was a surprise to all who care, then, that on February 3, 2011, images of Leo appeared on a (sadly) now-defunct website and in various pages of industry magazines. Two glorious photos, one featuring her semi–doubled over in a black half-sleeve faux-fur jacket over a formfitting black sequin dress. A second photo saw her standing by a pool against a column, in a Romanesque bathhouse, wearing a floor-length white faux-fur coat over a glittery pink evening gown. She looked radiant, proud, and, most importantly, comfortable. Leo revealed the shoot was self-financed, with help from three of her friends.

Photo: Melissa Leo (Advertisement)

Leo was certainly not the first actor to self-produce an Oscars bid. Examples of guerilla-style “For Your Consideration” campaigns go back to the 1960s, like actor Chill Wills’s infamous and wildly expensive Best Supporting Actor ads for The Alamo, which included a direct plea to each and every member of the Academy in alphabetical order. Then there was Margaret Avery’s in-character letter to God for her Best Supporting Actress nomination for The Color Purple in 1985. Leo’s campaign, although staged and full of glam, was far more subtle than its predecessors. The word “CONSIDER …” in white text floats above her head in one photo, and off to the side on the pool, almost indecipherable, in the other. In a powerful twist, there was no reference to The Fighter, or even what category she was to be … considered in.

Nevertheless, Hollywood was abuzz, with industry blogs poking fun at the enigmatic shoot, while others took a more dire stance, arguing that the “risky” shoot could backfire. Leo quickly addressed the controversy, telling Deadline that she “heard there were negative comments, but no one said them to my face, sadly. I like to hear what people think. I could explain myself.”

Leo had nothing to explain, though. What she did was a time-honored but often behind-closed-doors tradition of actually playing the Hollywood game as honestly as one can. The inspiration for the shoot came from her frustration over not being able to nab a magazine cover or any sort of fancy photo shoot, despite the success of The Fighter and universal praise for her performance. She felt the industry’s ageism — reducing her to, simply, an actress in her 50s — was at work against her, so she decided to take matters into her own hands.

And that she did! In the photos, we see a professional, clearly at ease in front of friends, feeling good in the clothes and makeup she decided on and paid for. Leo added to Deadline, “All I ask of Hollywood is that they consider Melissa Leo. If you want to hire me, give me a shout.” As simple as that! Hire me! Or not. Let me know. Truer words have never been spoken.

It was more effective than a post on LinkedIn might be, and its ripples reverberate to this day. Because really, we’re all just asking the world to consider us, every day. When I say “Link in bio” on Instagram, or retweet my own tweet, or send a meme to a group-text chat and not get a response until a day or two later and it’s just “haha” … aren’t I really just saying “Consider …”?

“Consider …” I say to my 2-year-old nephew over FaceTime when I’m trying to get his attention as he watches a YouTube channel original cartoon about talking trains and won’t look over at me. “Consider …” I say to myself whenever I choose to sit in my car in the morning and eat Starbucks oatmeal. “Consider …” I say to my boyfriend whenever I ask him if he wants to watch the movie Jackie (spoiler: He doesn’t).

To live in a society is to “Consider …” Melissa was just honest about it, so she coined it. And regardless of the upturned noses, Leo won that Oscar (at the same dreaded ceremony where they forced Anne Hathaway to host with James Franco). She polished off a 2011 awards-season sweep. She was — all together now — considered.

Coming off the heels of “Consider …” her Oscars acceptance speech — including an f-bomb-laden Kate Winslet reference, one single “golly,” and several pauses for awe — would undoubtedly cement her as a Hollywood oddball. Most of her peers and fellow nominees seemed into it, albeit slightly uncomfortable. Even now, comments on the official Oscars YouTube channel call the speech “cringe” or “fake,” with more people seeming to adore category presenter Kirk Douglas’s horny old-guy schtick. Classic!

Ten years later, the world is obviously a very different one than when we were asked to consider. What I wouldn’t give to just be considering Melissa Leo for a well-deserved Oscar over considering walking to Best Buy just so I can be (semi-) near other humans and stare at a My Girl DVD that I won’t actually purchase while listening to myself breathe in my face mask. And as we slowly move out of the pseudo-apocalypse we’ve endured for more than a year now, we continue full-throttle into the 2021 awards season, crossing the first (and hopefully last) pandemic-era Golden Globes off the list of firsts. Thinking about awards-season campaigns in the Zoom era, you can’t help but see the nominees gunning for the top statue looking to Melissa Leo’s “Consider …” for inspiration. The ultimate vision board of DIY boldness. An ahead-of-its-time Oscar grab that even ten years later feels psychically aligned with the at-home nightmare we’ve been stuck in for 12 months. Melissa Leo: Oscar winner. Soothsayer.

At last week’s Golden Globes, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler beamed in on the same screen from different sides of the country, national treasure Jane Fonda wished “Tommy Tune (?)” a happy birthday, and there were a bunch of virtual comedy bits, including one with Glenn Close on set in Montana. Good for Glenn. And even with the standard corniness and overproduced edge that comes with any awards show, there was an eerie beauty in its glitchy nature.

There were moments that harkened back to the same strange joy of Melissa Leo in her “Consider …” ads, bent over forward with her hands on her hips, looking straight into the camera. They felt private and self-assured — even (please forgive me) defiant. Like when Jodie Foster accepted her Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe for a movie I’ll watch on a plane someday, in her PJs on a couch with her wife and their dog. Jason Sudeikis’s bleary-eyed 3 a.m. victory speech for Ted Lassoclad in a sweatshirt with his sister’s company’s name on it — was unrehearsed and rambling (fellow nominee Don Cheadle jokingly gave him the “wrap it up” finger swirl). Chloé Zhao, sitting in what looked like an office, holding up a coffee mug to cheer herself on her historic Best Director win for Nomadland. These moments felt impossibly genuine in a historically anti-genuine event. As genuine as you can be while winning an award during a global pandemic. These moments felt completely on these people’s own terms, and for those looking ahead to the Academy Awards, a kind of “For Your Consideration” campaign you can’t buy.

If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that no one is going to help us. So why not be like Melissa Leo in 2011 and consider yourself? Put on a giant floor-length fur coat and have three close friends take a photo of you (over FaceTime or Zoom). For what? I don’t know. But it’s a start.

Happy ten years to “Consider …”

Reconsidering How We Considered Melissa Leo’s ‘Consider’