Viola Davis to Campaign in Oscar Supporting Category for Fences Film

News   Viola Davis to Campaign in Oscar Supporting Category for Fences Film
She won a Tony in the Leading Actress category for the role.
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis Paramount Pictures

Viola Davis, who won the 2010 Tony Award as Best Actress in a Play for her performance in a revival of Fences, wants to be considered eligible in the Best Supporting Actress category for the 2017 Oscars for playing the same role in the forthcoming film, Paramount Pictures has confirmed to

The long-awaited film version of August Wilson's Tony- and Pulitzer-winning drama Fences, also starring Denzel Washington and several other cast members of the acclaimed 2010 Broadway revival, is scheduled to open in cinemas December 25.

The trade website reported that Davis asked for the change after seeing a screening of the film. Paramount, the film’s producer, reportedly will submit her name in the supporting category for Screen Actors Guild Awards consideration. The same is expected with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the Golden Globe Awards.

Those who have seen advance screenings had put Davis among top contenders for Best Actress in the 2017 Oscar race, according to the trade website. The other leaders include Annette Bening in 20th Century Women, Natalie Portman in Jackie, Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins, and Emma Stone in La La Land.

Her category will ultimately be decided by the Oscar nominators., a website that tracks the odds of nominees landing in various categories, is offering 10/1 odds of Davis being nominated as Best Actress (the fifth-highest odds), and 5/1 odds of being nominated as Best Supporting Actress (the third-highest odds).

Two-time Oscar winner Washington and Davis play the lead roles of Troy and Rose Maxson, performances that won them both Tony Awards in 2010. Mykelti Williamson plays the role of Gabriel, and Russell Hornsby again plays Lyons in the film. Playwright August Wilson adapted his own script for the screen.

Washington’s stature and the 2016 controversy over the lack of diversity in the Hollywood power structure, particularly in the Oscar nominations, give Fences a higher profile than might traditionally have had this year.

Here is the trailer:

Here is a production shot released by the producer, Paramount. Another is at the top of this story.

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis
Denzel Washington and Stephen McKinley Henderson Paramount Pictures

This photo is from the 2010 Broadway production:

Washington also directs the film. He plays the role created on Broadway in 1987 by James Earl Jones. Washington has a separate deal with HBO to bring the rest of Wilson's “Century Cycle” or “Pittsburgh Cycle” plays to the small screen. The Fences project is not included, and is being produced for Paramount by Washington and Scott Rudin.

Also in the film: Jovan Adepo (The Leftovers) as Washington's son Cory and Saniyya Sidney (Roots, Hidden Figures) as daughter Raynell.

Fences won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.

Viola Davis
Viola Davis Photo by Joan Marcus

The Piano Lesson, which was also honored with a Pulitzer, was previously the only of Wilson's plays to have been adapted for the screen. The playwright's longtime collaborator Lloyd Richards directed the 1995 made-for-television movie.

None of his other works, including Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Two Trains Running, and Joe Turner's Come and Gone, have made it to the screen. Until he died, Wilson insisted that any screen adaptation of his work would have to be helmed by an African-American director, a demand studios resisted.

Fences is the story of Troy Maxson, a Pittsburgh sanitation worker who once dreamed of a baseball career, but was too old when the major leagues finally admitted black players. He tries to be a good husband and father, but his lost dream of glory eats at him and causes him to make a decision that tears his family apart.

(Updated October 24, 2016)

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