EXCLUSIVE: Throw the name Jeremy Irons into the Best Supporting Actor Oscar race, that is if producer Ed Pressman has his way.
Pressman, who produced 1990’s Reversal Of Fortune (among many others), the movie that won Irons the Best Actor Oscar, is trying for a reversal of fortune for his earlier April release, The Man Who Knew Infinity, which earned a decent $4 million domestically when it was distributed by IFC Films, but came out in a period that is not exactly friendly for Oscar campaigns. Generally most prestige-type movies released before May, at the very least, tend to be forgotten or overshadowed at Academy Awards time by later films aimed at the adult market which come out in the last four months of the year. The movie, which also hopes to gain attention for star Dev Patel in the lead actor race, is about the bond forged over the course of five years between mathematics genius Srinivasa Ramanujan (Patel) and Trinity College professor and mentor G.H. Hardy (Irons ).
Pressman, through his Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation plans an independent awards campaign for the Matthew Brown-directed film, but particularly Irons that includes a special White House screening on October 24th featuring Irons and specially invited mathematicians, DVD screeners sent to the actors branch of the Academy and other awards groups, special Q&As and dinners with Irons in L.A. and NY, and FYC ads of course, all financed by Pressman, not IFC. He will be aiming his attention also at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and BAFTA. Irons was recently honored by that group in London where the film was also shown.
As for Patel, though he is very fine in this film, he also has another true story, Lion, being released November 25th by The Weinstein Company, so he may be campaigning more directly for that performance even if he will be part of this Infinity push as well, at least in ads. Ironically, Patel’s Lion performance could be competing with Irons in the supporting category. But it is really Irons that Pressman said his campaign will focus on. “We believe Jeremy’s performance really deserves attention. It is one of his best to date,” Pressman told me over the phone this week. “I remember when we did Reversal Of Fortune he was a real long shot and won the Oscar. I think this film has been a very underdog film, and a film that deserves the attention we are giving it. The fact that it opened in April gives it a handicap so we need to do what we have to do to put it on the map.”
Pressman praised the distribution job IFC did but says it is up to him to launch the Oscar campaign. “It did very well theatrically for them, but they have a different agenda. Because the film was released in April they didn’t make the budget for any kind of Academy campaign so we, with their total support, are taking it on ourselves, and that is what we are doing,” he said, adding that IFC will likely put it back in theaters should Irons get a nomination.
Pressman, a veteran producer of over 80 films including Wall Street, Badlands, Das Boot, Plenty, Thank You For Smoking and many others said The Man Who Knew Infinity was not easy to get made. “It was a very uphill battle to get it out there, and despite a modest marketing campaign it has done very well and continues to do very well in the after-market.”
He is now hoping that “after market” includes some awards attention.