A new ad for Nebraska's highlights the advanced ages of its stars, a strategy which should serve it well during Oscar season.
The ad, which debuted on Deadline, points out that Will Forte is 41, June Squibb is 84, and Bruce Dern is 77, while shilling for their Alexander Payne movie about an elderly man who thinks he won a million dollars. Deadline's Pete Hammond marveled at the spot: "And now Paramount is going to unleash a highly unusual new TV spot that does something I can’t recall ever having seen – it reveals the actual ages of its stars. Whoa. Going where no studio has ever gone before. Now that’s a first for Hollywood!" Of course, Hammond also notes that the ad "ought to resonate with many in the Academy which you may have heard has a few older members itself."
While, yes, it might be striking in "age-phobic" (per Hammond's headline) Hollywood to see the numbers in plan black-and-white, the fact that, say, Dern has had a long and storied career with little recognition in the way of awards has long been part of this campaign. And while Hollywood may not be lining up to throw money at films with older protagonists, the Academy positively loves them. Look no further than recent nominations (and some wins) for Jeff Bridges (64), Alan Arkin (79), Robert De Niro (70), Morgan Freeman (76), Christopher Plummer (84), Tommy Lee Jones (67), Max Von Sydow (84), Clint Eastwood (83), Tom Wilkinson (65), Alan Alda (77), Hal Holbrook (88), and the late Peter O'Toole. And that's just actors in the last ten years.
It's a bit of a different case for June Squibb, as not even the Academy has as much consistent love for actresses of a certain age. Though that attitude may be experiencing a bit of an ebb this year. All five of the top contenders for Best Actress are over 40. And though they don't often win—see: Emmanuelle Riva last year—the Oscars frequently acknowledge actresses of an advanced age, sometimes even when they aren't rewarding much else in the film like in the case of Ruby Dee in American Gangster, who was nominated but didn't win.
So: smart awards campaigning? Absolutely. A bold plea in the face of a hostile Academy? Not quite.