Is there an invitation to Oscar night in the cards for the sleeper Italian-language hit Il Postino (The Postman)? The answer, as they say, is in the mail.
As Price Waterhouse accountants tally the ballots for the announcement of nominees on Feb. 13, the famously shrewd publicists of Miramax, Il Postino‘s distributor, are hoping their lavish $1.5 million effort to position the dark horse for greater glory isn’t in vain. (The movie itself cost only around $3 million to make.) ”It would mean so much,” Miramax Oscar strategist Cynthia Swartz says of Academy recognition. ”It’s important not just for this film but for the state of foreign films in this country.”
Of course, it’s pretty important for Miramax, too. Though Il Postino was an early Oscar long shot, it has recently picked up momentum, having received critical nominations from, among others, the Directors Guild. A victory in a major Oscar category, especially Best Picture, could add as much as $20 million in domestic box office receipts to a film that has already earned an impressive $10 million in only a handful of American theaters. Using trade-magazine ads that point out that the film can’t be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film (because it premiered in Italy in 1994), as well as screener cassettes, and letters, Miramax is pushing not just for a Best Picture nod but also for Best Director (for Brit Michael Radford), Best Score, best screenplay adaptation, and, most boldly, Best Actor for the late Massimo Troisi in the title role. Troisi could very well draw the sympathy vote: The Italian actor collapsed from a heart ailment a week into shooting Il Postino, worked only an hour or two a day during production, then died at age 41 the day after filming wrapped.
If Sense and Sensibility, Leaving Las Vegas, and Apollo 13 lock up three of the five Best Picture nominations as expected, Il Postino would be jockeying against such diverse competitors as Braveheart, The American President, and Babe for one of the two remaining spots. ”This is one of the weirdest races ever,” says another studio’s Oscar specialist. ”If a talking pig has a chance, why not The Postman?”