Movie Editor's Blog

Movie Editor's Blog

The Oscars voting loophole that means Ben Affleck could still win Best Director

In the run-up to this year’s Oscars nominations, the hype-machine was all about one man, Ben Affleck, and his guaranteed gong for Best Director.

The actor-turned-director was on his way to pulling off the most successful career make-over in recent Hollywood history. From cinematic joke to talented filmmaker, Affleck was about to silence ten years of critics with ‘Argo’. Then the red carpet was pulled from under his feet when he was omitted from the list of Best Director nominees.

Game over Affleck... or is it?

[Related story: Ben Affleck shrugs off Academy's big snub]
[Related story: BAFTAs 2013: Ben Affleck and Argo the big winners]

Actor/Director.... Affleck on the set of Argo (Credit: Rex)
Soon after the 10 January nominee announcement, rumours started appearing online that a nod wasn’t all that important to winning. There was a loophole in the voting system. A glitch in the Matrix.

The Hollywood Reporter uncovered a 1935 precedent from when Bette Davis failed to land a nomination for ‘Of Human Bondage’. Industry outcry led Academy voters to simply ignore the shortlist, and “write-in” with Davis’ name instead. She didn’t win, but when the final tally was made public, Davis had finished third.

A year later in 1936, Cinematographer Hal Mohr became the first and only person to win an Academy Award via “write-in votes” when he took home a little gold man for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

Ben took home the BAFTAs for Best Film and Best Director at this years ceremony (Credit: Wenn)
These days the clunky online voting system stands in the way of ticking outside the box, but Affleck has enough friends in Hollywood’s high places to write-in and make a difference to the Academy’s outcome.

We spoke to bookmakers William Hill about the ‘Affleck loophole’, who gave us 200/1 odds for the ‘Argo’ director to scoop the award. It’s an outside bet, but it’s not impossible - after all, this is the man that recovered from “Gigli”.

A decade ago Affleck was a joke, there’s literally no other way of putting that. He was a six time Golden Raspberry Award nominee – with a record triple Worst Actor win in 2003 for ‘Daredevil’, ‘Gigli’ and ‘Paycheck’ combined. And don’t forget ‘Pearl Harbour’ - as much as you might want to.

But, in 2007 when the apparently awful Affleck took a shot at directing ‘Gone Baby Gone’, the public scoffed, and then swiftly ate their words. In 2010 he proved it wasn’t just beginners luck with gritty Boston crime flick ‘The Town’ – people started to take him seriously, his acting seemed better, and most importantly of all, he wasn’t just “Matt Damon’s mate” anymore.

Then we come to ‘Argo’…

Notches on ‘Argo’s’ bedpost currently include BAFTAs for Best Film and Best Director, two Golden Globes for Best Drama and Best Director and a Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing. So why not an Oscar?

A write-in victory would require an enormous collaboration from Affleck’s friends and fans alike - especially those with actual Academy Membership - but it would be a career turnaround worthy of a Hollywood movie.