Winning an Oscar is said to be the pinnacle of an actor’s career, but is walking away with a gold statue and recognition from your peers really worth anything tangible, like better movie roles and more money? Octavia Spencer says no.
This past award’s season was all about “The Help” actress, and she cleaned up in virtually ever best supporting actress category she was nominated in, from the SAGs to the Golden Globes, and the coveted Academy Awards. Octavia knew the hoopla wasn’t going to be all it was cracked up to be, remarking after she won her Golden Globe, “The studios are still not going to beat down my door unless it’s a small part in a big comedy, and I’ve done those.” Months later, and with an Oscar under her belt, her prophecy is proving to be true. In an interview with The Vulture, the star of the upcoming flick, “Smashed,” talked about how not much has changed since award season when it comes to her career. Here’s a bit of the Q&A:
While you were on set [for "The Help"], did you have a sense that your career was in the middle of a big shift?
No, the reality for me was that I thought my phone would be ringing a lot, and it wasn’t. And this project ["Smashed"] came along, and it was a great film, and it was [prior to] the success of “The Help.” Now, looking back, they get huge kudos from me. So no, because my phone wasn’t ringing off the hook, I didn’t feel like anything was changing.
Well, it must have started ringing at some point, because you have some pretty great projects coming up, like Diablo Cody’s movie andSnow Piercer.
Well, the funny is thing is that I got the Diablo Cody movie and I got “Snow Piercer” before I got any nominations, so I knew I had both of those projects in November. I don’t want to sound as if [I'm complaining]. The reality is that there are so few roles out there for women and for women of color, and I’m a character actor, this I know. And I’m getting to see more of the roles that are out there, but there aren’t many. And zilch have been studio movies. Zilch. So my challenge and my opportunity now is to take the opportunity to create my own work. I’m fine with that.
So what you’re saying is that you booked a lot of roles off The Help, but winning the Oscar — lovely though it may have been — wasn’t necessarily a big needle-mover.
It’s a needle-mover in the sense that I get to go into room and meet with really important people. If that translates into job offers, then we’ll see. It’s a needle-mover, but not that much.
It was a needle-mover in another way, at least: During the Oscar season, you wore — and I know you’re going to be modest about this — a lot of gorgeous Tadashi Shoji dresses.
I’m not going to be modest: I did! [Laughs]
What advice would you give to the stars who are about to embark on that Oscar gauntlet of press and promotion and parties, like you did last year?
See, for me, I’ve been doing this for seventeen years, so I just looked it as an opportunity to meet people and enjoy myself. I would say: Be kind to yourself, get rest, but go and enjoy yourself. Don’t look it as a job, because if you go into it expecting anything and it doesn’t happen, then you’ve lost a lot of time. If you go into it without a lot of expectations, you can enjoy the process and enjoy the fact the George Clooney’s going to walk through that door, Brad Pitt’s going to walk through that door, all these people that you ever dared to dream of meeting. I was always excited: Oh my God, there’s George! I’ll be right back, I’m going to say hi to George. That’s how I took it, and enjoyed every moment of it.
Though “The Help” and the recognition that came with it may have pigeonholed Octavia Spencer in Hollywood, the truth of the matter is unless you were a phenomenal, well-known actor or actress before winning an Oscar, the little gold man doesn’t seem to do much for anybody. I can’t say if this is specifically race related, but just thinking off the top of my head, the acting careers of Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson, and Monique all seemed to go rapidly downhill after their Oscar wins, regardless of the type of role they played. This is often why such awards are considered more of a popularity contest than any indication of one’s value in the business.
What do you think about what Octavia had to say about her career post-Oscar?
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