Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor: ‘The Ship Has Sailed’ for ‘Origin’ Oscar Campaign but ‘It’s the People’s Movie’
Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, but “Origin” star Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor sounds like she’s already moving on from awards season. Instead, she’s focusing on how the film is impacting audiences.
When asked what it would mean to hear her name called for her second Academy Award nod, Ellis-Taylor paused to thoughtfully consider her words.
“That part of it… that ship has sailed and that’s alright,” Ellis-Taylor said at the Variety Studio presented by Audible while at the Sundance Film Festival. “What I’m excited about is my family members came out in droves to see that film on Friday.”
“Origin” — filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” in which Ellis-Taylor plays the author — opened in limited release this weekend, grossing $875,000 from 125 screens. It had a brief Oscar qualifying run last December.
“It has been…it was overlooked,” Ellis-Taylor added. “What I am excited about is it’s the people’s movie and that people are responding to that call to action. I’m not going to be out in the street…for everything that I do, but that film is bigger than me, the messages in it. It’s based on a book that had something that disrupted our practice in the world. I just want folks to see it.”
In recent weeks, Ellis-Taylor — who visited the Variety Studio presented by Audible at Sundance with her latest film “Exhibiting Forgiveness” — has spoken out about the film’s muted awards buzz.
Despite strong reviews out of last year’s fall festivals in Venice and Toronto, DuVernay’s film morphed into an underdog as the race inched closer to the new year. On Jan. 10, the director took to Instagram to express regret that the film and Ellis-Taylor did not gain the traction she felt they deserved.
In a video post, DuVernay shared that Ellis-Taylor had personally camped out at Los Angeles’ AMC Century City theater to spread the word about “Origin.”
“She had told me that she wanted to remind herself about what matters. That she wanted to invite people to see our work, and that she would stay low profile, keep on her mask. That it wasn’t about her, but about the movie. Someone noticed her. And recorded her. And now I see this – and my heart aches, ” DuVernay wrote of Ellis-Taylor.
The message galvanized Hollywood supporters. Angelina Jolie, Regina King, Ben Affleck, JJ Abrams, Samuel L. Jackson and Guillermo del Toro all hosted special screenings and worked to promote the film. But, as Ellis-Taylor said at Variety‘s Sundance studio, it may be too little too late.
“I wish the world for her. All the flowers. All the gold statues,” DuVernay concluded in the Jan. 10 post. “She reminds me to move from wishing to what matters. And what matters is why we made this film and why we do this work. For people. To be in community with others. To reach for someone else’s hand and recognize oneself. To tell stories of human dignity and justice.”