Maybe someone should tell Jimmy Kimmel that he shouldn’t lead with his cleavage. But, then, a lot of people told Melissa Leo — after the fact — that she shouldn’t pay for her own “Consider…” ads. And then she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Fighter and it was New Year’s Eve set to the anthem “I Did it My Way.” With both Kimmel and Paul Reubens posting copycat ads, nothing could be truer than the old adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery — er, except, flattery.
Full disclosure: I was at the Rhinebeck Mansion the night the Jason Downs produced the infamous photo shoot. I wasn’t sold on the idea. It was risky. In my heart, and as a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, I believed that Leo was at long last in her career the frontrunner. My daughter and I watched from the wings — Lizzie elated and me nervous — as they took the pictures of Melissa in a faux fur by the swimming pool, and later in glittery, glamorous dresses as an indie movie shoot threading it’s way through the location.
I am happy to say that I was dead wrong about the outcome of that night in upstate NY.
No doubt: Melissa looked gorgeous, and nothing like her tough-talking mama’s in The Fighter and Frozen River. She had the full “What Becomes a Legend Most” treatment. Sure, Paramount should have been paying for the campaign but they had two other “horses” in the race at the time: Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit and Amy Adams, also in The Fighter. But would the ads help or hurt?
There was a firestorm when the restrained ads came out in the trades, polarizing the pro-Leo camp that believed she was proactively seizing the day, and those critical of her brazen behavior. Deadline Hollywood took the middle ground, pointing out historical winners who did personal campaigns: American Graffiti’s Candy Clark winner; losers included Diana Ross, Chill Wills And Margaret Avery.
I talked to Melissa about the campaign last February for MarieClaire.com, and she laughed as she said: “In the true story, when we’re 90, we’ll giggle and write about the negativity. As we have witnessed before, it’s only the generator of the discussion. If there’s no negativity, there’s no discussion.”
And, now, in something we never would have anticipated — or at least I didn’t — those ads have been woven into the pop culture. They have not disappeared like “Kleenex,” to quote Melissa. Here we have that crazed weaver of Pop Culture, Paul Reubens aka Pee Wee Herman putting on the fur — in photo shop — and getting into the Leo act.
To quote our mutual friend Nina Shengold, who along with Melissa is a member of Ulster County’s Actors & Writers theatre collective: “Melissa & Pee Wee, ahead of the curve as usual!”