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Lesley Manville's awards surprise

December 2, 2010 |  5:45 pm


In a town where movie buffs are as savvy about the Oscar game as Boston Red Sox fans are about baseball, it’s easy to forget what a peculiarly American event awards season is. At least until you talk to an Oscar race newcomer like Lesley Manville, the British actress who learned today that she had won the Best Actress Award from the National Board of Review for her performance in Mike Leigh’s “Another Year.”

“I didn’t even know what the NBR was until somebody said to me tonight, ‘Well you’ve won it and it’s a great one cause it kicks off the season,’ ” said Manville from her home in London, in a tone suggesting a mix of gratitude and bewilderment. “We have a couple of awards here, you know, the BAFTAs. But in the U.S., there’s dozens of them, aren’t there?”

Dozens and then some. Actors who drive Hollywood Boulevard with their windows down in January should stay alert, cause someone is liable to toss a statuette in the car.

But the National Board of Review’s is a significant prize, one considered a gauge of which films have early momentum in the Oscar race. A New York-based nonprofit made up of cineastes, academics, film professionals and students, the NBR has more bookish tastes than the academy, which is why a performance like Manville’s in a small film can get some traction.

In “Another Year,” Manville plays Mary, a lonely, fragile woman in her 40s or 50s resisting the inexorable march of time. Though she has had a robust career in British television and theater, Manville has earned little attention in the U.S. until this film, her seventh screen collaboration with Leigh.

“It’s the first time it’s happened to me in my career,” Manville said. “If it helps open up things for me workwise, then that’s good. If it opens things up in the States, I’d love to come work there for a bit. I’m ready for that adventure.” 

 --Rebecca Keegan

Photo: British actress Lesley Manville. Credit: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times.