Upon banking $700 million across its domestic theatrical run to become the highest-grossing superhero film of all time, Black Panther broke barriers for black representation in cinema. If lead actor Chadwick Boseman has a say in the film’s impending awards campaign, the film could also forge new ground for comic book adaptations at Oscars — and not in the Academy’s recently announced “achievement in popular film” category, either.
“We don’t know what it [the new prize] is, so I don’t know whether to be happy about it or not,” Boseman told The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg during a recent episode of the publication’s Awards Chatter podcast. “What I can say is that there’s no campaign [that we are mounting] for popular film; like, if there’s a campaign, it’s for best picture, and that’s all there is to it.”
According to THR, Disney has enlisted veteran strategist Cynthia Swartz — who previously handled awards bids for films like The Social Network, Boyhood, and The Grand Budapest Hotel — to mount the Marvel movie’s Oscar campaign. And per Boseman, it appears the team is more interested in becoming a best picture contender than a popular film one.
“A good movie is a good movie,” continued Boseman. “And clearly it doesn’t matter how much money a movie makes in order for it to be ‘a good movie’ [in the minds of Academy members] because if [it did], the movies that get nominated and win [which have tended in recent years to not be blockbusters] wouldn’t get nominated; and if it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter on both sides…. For my money, the only thing that matters is the level of difficulty.”
Across the last 90 ceremonies, a superhero film has yet to storm the gates of Oscar’s most prestigious competitive category. Two have come close: 2016’s Deadpool scored key precursor nominations — including at the Producers Guild of America Awards and the Golden Globes — and 2008’s The Dark Knight won two of eight total Oscar nominations, but neither ultimately broke into the best picture race at large.
Though specific details on the Academy’s planned changes have yet to be announced, films released theatrically throughout the 2018 calendar year are eligible to receive nominations for both best picture and the new category. But Boseman told Feinberg he’s aiming for the former in the name of the complexly orchestrated action flick’s all-encompassing production, which he feels elevates Black Panther to another level.
“What we did was very difficult. We created a world, we created a culture … we had to create a religion, a spirituality, a politics; we had to create an accent; we had to pull from different cultures to create clothing styles and hair styles. It’s very much like a period piece,” he finished. “So, as far as that’s concerned, I dare any movie to try to compare to the [level of] difficulty of this one. And the fact that so many people liked it — if you just say it’s [merely] popular, that’s elitist.”
Disney did not immediately respond to EW’s request for clarification on how it will campaign Black Panther throughout the awards season ahead. Listen to Boseman’s full appearance on Awards Chatter here.