Why Jennifer Lawrence and Matt Damon were snubbed at the SAG Awards

When looking at the SAG award nominations, two Oscar winners were overlooked for two very different reasons.

Talk about the ‘everybody-gets-a-trophy’ mentality. It’s true, this year Jennifer Lawrence and Matt Damon were indeed “snubbed,” but it may have been for two very different reasons — one of which you should be happy about.

Oscar winner Matt Damon is indeed a terrific actor. However, this year, five others were better at portraying characters who were far more indelible. It’s as simple as that.

We only have 15 categories and two are for stunts. So, no, everybody does not get a trophy, or a Best Actor award, in this case. It’s just not possible.

As a long time SAG-AFTRA member and SAG Awards voter, I get asked the same questions every year, which is some version of, “Why didn’t you guys nominate [your favorite actor/movie/TV show]?” The answer is: some years, even the best actors in the industry — the ones who we all agree are deservedly on the A-list — don’t always deliver an award-winning performance.

A lot of what we nominate and vote for are performances that shake us to our core and rise above the fray — roles that are bold and unexpected. Matt Damon in Behind the Candelabra was fresh, exciting and a real departure from the Bourne films he had been doing; the role showed his depth as an actor, which is why he was nominated that year. But The Martian? I feel like I just saw that performance in Interstellar and Elysium. It’s not that he wasn’t good in those roles; he was, but it just felt like Matt Damon on repeat.

This was a tough year to take a role that wasn’t extraordinary, because our Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role category was fiercer than most years. If you’re going up against performances that have been called “performances of a lifetime” like Bryan Cranston in Trumbo, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Reverent or Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl, it had better be something that stands out in your career, not just in 2015.

SAG nominations are made by 4,200 randomly chosen SAG members. Twenty-one hundred vote for film, 2,100 vote for television shows. And then, the entire SAG-AFTRA community (roughly 100,000 of us) vote for the best of the nominated. SAG is particularly excited that this year we have eight first-time individual actors and two first-time ensemble cast nominations. One of the important functions of this award is to help the next Jennifer Lawrence, which is why three of the five nominees for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role were Brie Larson (Room), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) and Sarah Silverman (I Smile Back).

Entertainment Weekly loves to point out that screeners for Joy were sent out late, but on some level, SAG voters looked at Jennifer Lawrence and thought, “She’s good. She’s got this,” meaning she won’t have a hard time getting work or leaving her mark on our industry. Her powerful statement this year about the gender pay-gap in Hollywood was both influential and important but potentially a game-changer for young women coming up in the business, i.e. her fellow SAG members. As a champion of women, she would likely understand the importance of promoting excellence on screen of other young women who deserve recognition by both their peers and the industry as a whole.

The leading actors in Hollywood, who are the highest paid (as opposed to the most respected) in our industry, should have salaries commensurate with their film’s box office, right? They aren’t. Adam Sandler is still one of the top earners at $41 million in 2015 despite his films making under $100 million. Melissa McCarthy’s take-home salary was $23 million, when her films The Heat grossed $229 million and Spy grossed over $235 million. The disparity is obvious.

Therefore, we need to see the JLaw “snub” through the lens that this was not a snub at all, but a celebration and a support of other women who have not yet made their mark in the same way she has — women who are worthy of that kind of recognition. If we keep seeing the same people, the usual suspects on award nomination lists (Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock), we don’t get the opportunity to encourage the next generation of actresses. We create an elitist group who will never outnumber their male counterparts. Women need a greater foothold in Hollywood, and the best way to do that is to promote a larger pool of women through award ceremonies.


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