Even though the pandemic has turned the 2021 Oscars into a giant question mark, there is apparently one thing the Academy knows for certain about next year’s ceremony: Hamilton won’t be eligible for any awards. The filmed version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hugely popular musical, which debuted on Disney+ on Friday, falls outside the purview of eligibility, a rep for the Academy confirmed to Vanity Fair. So, yes: Even though Hamilton won every other award under the sun, including several Tonys, Grammys, and a Pulitzer, an Academy Award won’t be added to that gilded list.
Has this always been the case for filmed theater productions? No, actually. In 1976, James Whitmore earned an Oscar nomination for starring in a filmed production of the one-man show Give ‘em Hell, Harry! However, the ceremony’s rules were tweaked in 1997, expelling recordings of this nature from contention. In the Academy’s complete current rules of merit, it’s explicitly stated that works “that are essentially unfiltered records of performances” cannot be considered for nomination. But no, you think to yourself! Hamilton’s not like other stage recordings! It’s different! It’s special. Well, not to the Academy, friends.
Prior to the world turning upside down, Hamilton was set to hit theaters October 2021—a plum release date for potential awards consideration. It was pushed up to this July after the pandemic hit and temporarily capsized the theatergoing experience in the process.
It’s unclear if this eligibility wrinkle was clear to Disney before it released the filmed version of the musical. If deemed eligible for Oscars, the musical likely could have netted a few nominations under normal circumstances—but in this current climate, Hamilton could have easily dominated a fractured awards season, potentially securing nods in categories like best picture, best actor, best actress, and more. Miranda, who’s one O shy of an EGOT and was previously nominated for best original song in 2017, might have also been able to nab that elusive statuette once and for all. But then the Academy figured out how to say no to this.
Additional reporting by Christopher Rosen.
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