Andrea Riseborough's Best Actress Oscar nomination was a major surprise – here's how it happened

Andrea Riseborough in To Leslie
(Image credit: Momentum Pictures)

Andrea Riseborough came through as the stand-out surprise during this year's Oscar nomination announcements after she received a nod in the Best Actress category for her performance in To Leslie.

So, how did Riseborough's nomination come about? Well, it certainly helps that she gave a knockout performance as Leslie, a Texas single mother and alcoholic trying to turn her life around. Her performance garnered near-universal acclaim from critics, with Variety (opens in new tab) calling Riseborough "nothing short of spectacular", while Paste Magazine (opens in new tab) claims director Michael Morris "won the lottery when securing Riseborough as his Leslie". The film has a score of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Her fellow nominees are Cate Blanchett, Michelle Yeoh, Michelle Williams, and Ana de Armas. All but de Armas were expected nominees, with plenty of awards season chatter about Blanchett's performance in TÁR, Yeoh's in Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Williams' in The Fabelmans

Although de Armas' nomination may have been unexpected, Blonde, in which she plays Marilyn Monroe in a fictionalized portrayal of the actor's life, has proved controversial with viewers and critics alike and the Netflix film spent plenty of time in the spotlight in 2022. The same can't be said for To Leslie, an under-the-radar drama that received a limited release in the US back in October 2022 and made a total of $27,000 at the box office, while simultaneously being released on demand. 

It also helped that she has some famous friends willing to shine a light on the movie and lift it out of relative obscurity. Jennifer Aniston, Charlize Theron, Sarah Paulson, and Edward Norton all hosted screenings of the film, and Norton also posted a Twitter thread about the movie that was viewed more than a million times. 

"I don’t post a lot about films or actor performances… Maybe I should more often. But for those interested in really great acting I’ll share that Andrea Riseborough’s portrayal in 'To Leslie' just knocked me sideways," he wrote (opens in new tab). "It’s about the most fully committed, emotionally deep physically harrowing performance I’ve seen in a while. Just raw & utterly devoid of performative BS.  It’s a tough but really elegant & compassionate film (by Michael Morris) where the emotion is really earned. I happened to catch it and, wow, I was really staggered by the depth she reached. Very rare. Check it out."

Other actors voiced their support on Twitter, with Melanie Lynksey tweeting (opens in new tab) that Riseborough's performance in the film is "astonishing". "I’ve always worshipped her, but even for her this is next level," she continued. "I was weeping." Judd Apatow (opens in new tab) called her performance "phenomenal", while Kate Winslet said (opens in new tab) it was the "greatest female performance on-screen I have ever seen in my life."

Riseborough has had a wide-ranging career, with roles in movies as diverse as Netflix's Matilda the Musical and Brandon Cronenberg's psychological horror movie Possessor, as well as Birdman, Nocturnal Animals, and The Death of Stalin.

To find out who takes home the gong for Best Actress at this year's Academy Awards, you can tune into the Oscars 2023 on Sunday, March 12 on ABC in the US (exact timings and broadcast details for the UK have yet to be confirmed). In the meantime, fill out your watch list with our picks of the other best movies of 2022

Entertainment Writer

I’m an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering everything film and TV-related across the Total Film and SFX sections. I help bring you all the latest news and also the occasional feature too. I’ve previously written for publications like HuffPost and i-D after getting my NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism.