The Oscars added a category for casting, and it’s about damn time.
The announcement of the new category, slated to debut in 2026 for films released in 2025, has been warmly received on social media by awards aficionados. Many consider it a long-overdue acknowledgment, especially since the Casting Directors Branch was established over a decade ago in 2013. However, this raises questions about future categories and if, when, and how they will be accommodated in an awards ceremony that aims to stay under three hours.
More from Variety
It’s important to note that the Academy has yet to commit to featuring the best achievement in casting award during the televised ceremony. Details regarding eligibility and voting for the inaugural award will be disclosed in April 2025, alongside the complete rules for the 98th Academy Awards. The presentation method will be determined by the Academy’s Board of Governors and its administrative leadership at a later date. Omitting casting directors from the telecast, particularly after the backlash the Academy faced in 2022 for excluding eight categories, would be a significant oversight.
Casting directors, often the unsung heroes of film production, rarely receive mainstream recognition. David Rubin, a renowned casting director known for his work on the best picture winner “The English Patient,” served as AMPAS president from 2019 to 2022. The chance for the consumers to learn the names of Ellen Lewis, Sarah Finn, Victoria Thomas and Carmen Cuba fills me with glee.
Other potential categories have been proposed throughout the Academy’s 96-year history, including an award for stunts, which is something the SAG Awards have long done. There appears to be some positive momentum about getting stunt artists the the Oscars attention they deserve.
The Academy Awards have undergone dramatic changes since its inaugural ceremony, which lasted only 15 minutes and featured 12 categories, with winners announced months in advance. And there have been persistent pushes to broaden the number of craftspeople and artists that are celebrated during the telecast, even as the show’s producers have struggled to keep the runtime tight.
But that hasn’t stopped people from pitching Oscars for best voice performances (despite worthy efforts by Eddie Murphy in “Shrek”), as well as prizes for achievements in motion capture (a place to reward Andy Serkis from “The Lord of the Rings”), title design (any Alfred Hitchcock movie would have been a natural contender ) and music supervision (where Quentin Tarantino has shined the brightest). There’s even been chatter about two separate categories for hair and makeup (and can we revisit splitting the sound categories again after combining them in 2020?).
Incorporating all of this into a single ceremony, now with 24 categories and five original song performances featuring stars like Billie Eilish and Rihanna, poses a challenge. Ideally, the ceremony would just run as long as necessary, but would retain viewers by creating a show so compelling that audiences would refuse to change the channel — or go to bed. However, financial considerations and network constraints mean that won’t happen.
The Tony Awards, for example, include 26 categories divided between musicals and plays, with technical awards presented in a pre-show ceremony. Similarly, the Primetime Emmys and the Grammys conduct pre-show ceremonies for numerous categories, and broadcast highlights for public viewing.
Some people are worried that the best casting winner would neatly align with whichever film is named best picture. After all, wouldn’t the best film of the year also have the best ensemble? But the SAG Awards and the BAFTAs show that’s not always the case.
BAFTA casting award history shows that winners and nominees don’t always come from the lineup of Oscar frontrunners.
BAFTA casting winners history:
2019: “Joker” (Shayna Markowitz) – best picture nominee
2020: “Rocks” (Lucy Pardee) – zero Oscar nominations
2021: “West Side Story” (Cindy Tolan) – best picture nominee
2022: “Elvis” (Nikki Barrett and Denise Chamain) – best picture nominee
This year’s BAFTA casting nominees are: “All of Us Strangers” (Kathleen Crawford), “Anatomy of a Fall” (Cynthia Arra), “The Holdovers” (Susan Shopmaker), “How to Have Sex” (Isabella Odoffin) and “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Ellen Lewis and Rene Haynes). The list recognizes difficult of finding an up-and-coming talent like Dominic Sessa (“The Holdovers”), of filling out a cast of Indigenous stars (“Killers of the Flower Moon), or of finding a child performer like Milo Machado-Graner capable of holding his own with acting heavyweights (“Anatomy of a Fall”).
Introducing a casting category at the Oscars is a positive step toward acknowledging that no one person is responsible for making a great movie. It takes a village.
Best of Variety