Oscars 2017: Which celebrities will get political?

By Ian Youngs
Entertainment reporter in Los Angeles

  • Published
Donald and Melania Trump at the 2011 OscarsImage source, Alamy
Image caption,
Donald and Melania Trump at the Oscars in more harmonious times (otherwise known as 2011)

When the Oscars comes around on Sunday, there may be so many anti-Trump speeches they may need an award for the best one.

This year, perhaps more than ever, the ceremony will be about who says what as much as who wins what and who wears what.

Five weeks on from President Trump's inauguration, with the nation divided over the US president and his policies, many Hollywood stars will feel the need to take a stand on the biggest stage of all.

Meryl Streep got the ball rolling at the Golden Globes seven weeks ago. That made her even more of a hero in Hollywood, pretty much secured her an Oscar nomination and gave other actors licence to speak out too.

It's likely that most of those who want to make a point won't mention Mr Trump by name, but will instead make thinly veiled references to him by talking about tolerance and inclusion.

But Hollywood has a dilemma. The country is split, and Trump supporters already see celebrities - most of whom lined up behind Hillary Clinton - as an out-of-touch elite.

In a recent Hollywood Reporter poll, two thirds of Trump supporters said they had switched off an awards show when the winners got political.

Will making big political or moral pronouncements from the podium change anybody's minds? Or will they just make them turn off?

Who could speak out at the Oscars?

Image source, HFPA/EPA

Meryl Streep (again)

If she could, she surely would. But she's the outsider to win best actress for Florence Foster Jenkins.

The favourite is La La Land's Emma Stone, who said in November that Trump's election was a "chance for us to all unite and do the very, very best we can to speak out and be brave."

Stone has shied away from speaking out much since, mostly limiting herself to saying how "the positive gift of creativity" can transcend borders in divisive times.

Also in contention is Natalie Portman, who has also made her opposition clear.

If she wins, perhaps she will repeat a speech she gave to a Women's March in January, in which she thanked Mr Trump for starting "the revolution".

This was a reference to the fact he has galvanised a new movement demanding greater respect and opportunities for women.

Image source, Getty Images

Mahershala Ali

The Moonlight star and best supporting actor-elect delivered a powerful speech at the Screen Actors Guild Awards recently, first explaining how his film demonstrates what can happen when people are persecuted.

Against the backdrop of Trump's travel ban, he went on to reveal that he converted to Islam 17 years ago and that his mother is a Christian minister - but that they put aside the differences in their beliefs, which are "not that important".

Fellow nominee Dev Patel has said flying into the US in the midst of the travel ban uproar felt like "entering into a nightmare". Jeff Bridges has been more sanguine than most, urging Americans to "work together to make the most beautiful existence that we can".

He's certainly more sanguine than Michael Shannon, a surprise nominee for Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals.

Some think Oscar voters picked him partly because of his vitriolic statements about the President - like he "is going to destroy civilisation as we know it, and the earth", and that "if you're voting for Trump, it's time for the urn."

Image source, Viola Davis

Viola Davis

Davis, who presented Meryl Streep with her honorary award at the Golden Globes, is going to win the best supporting actress Oscar - if you believe the pundits.

It would be no surprise if the Fences star sends a strong message from the stage, although it may not be directly directed at Donald Trump. Backstage at the Globes, she said the identity crisis facing America was "bigger than him".

Talking about "the true meaning of what it means to pursue the American dream", she said: "I think that we've fallen short a lot because there is no way that we can have anyone in office that is not an extension of our own belief system. So then what does that say about us?"

Image source, Getty Images

Casey Affleck

Speaking at the Bafta Film Awards earlier this month, the best actor contender said he had spoken to Streep and praised her for her speech.

"I told her how much her speech at the Golden Globes meant to all of us and how grateful I was that she did it and kicked in the door a little bit."

The speech, he went on, "said it's okay to talk about these things and said it doesn't matter if we are actors, we have been given a microphone and we can speak out."

His main challenger for the best actor award, Denzel Washington, was the victim of "fake news" when it was reported he was supporting Mr Trump during the election campaign.

He denied it - though the experience seems to have made him more angry with the media for recycling such stories than with Trump himself.

Image source, Reuters

Jimmy Kimmel

It is the Oscar host's duty to deliver an opening monologue that gently mocks the assembled glitterati while making humorous references to topical events. So expect there to be a lot of Trump in the opening address by Kimmel.

Like every other talk show host, Kimmel has had a field day aiming barbs at Mr Trump on his nightly ABC programme.

Image source, PA

Not Asghar Farhadi

The Iranian director's A Separation won the best foreign film Oscar in 2012, and he is nominated again this time for The Salesman.

But he has said he will boycott the ceremony in protest at Mr Trump's attempt to ban travel from Iran and six other countries - even if he is able to attend.

Explaining his decision in a statement, he drew a parallel between "hard-liners" in the US and Iran who both frame the world through an "us and them" mentality.

Voters could well make a point by giving his film the statuette - and it's likely you'll hear his name mentioned from the podium by other winners.

Nobody - but that music is jolly nice

Aside from the prospect of alienating half the country, there's another reason the winners may not get political. They only have 45 seconds each to deliver their speeches before the orchestra strikes up and drowns them out.

That's barely enough time to thank your mom, dad, agent, all the other wonderful nominees who are much more deserving of this award and God - never mind make a profound political point that is going to heal the nation.

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