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Oscar nominations mystery: What'll happen to Hailee Steinfeld? [Updated]

January 21, 2011 |  1:00 pm

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When Oscar nominations are released Tuesday morning, many pundits will be looking for one thing in particular: where "True Grit" star Hailee Steinfeld ends up on the ballot -– in lead or supporting? Or will she be snubbed completely?

Paramount campaigned the 14-year-old star in supporting but, of course, she's really the female lead. For some crazy reason, studios usually campaign young people in supporting, as if to suggest that their reduced years mean they must compete in the second-tier acting race (equivalent to the kiddies' table at the family reunion).

Steinfeld ended up in supporting at the Screen Actors Guild Awards by her own choice. Guild contenders can decide category placement, but, at the Oscars, voters put you wherever they please. Twice in recent years voters ignored the fact that actresses campaigned in supporting and they put them in lead: Keisha Castle-Hughes ("Whale Rider," 2003) and Kate Winslet ("The Reader," 2008). At age 13, Castle-Hughes became the youngest person nominated for lead actress.

Category confusion could cause Steinfeld to be skunked completely, which has happened to many stars, including, for example, Leonardo DiCaprio. Clearly, he was the lead of "The Departed," but he campaigned in supporting so as not to compete against another lead performance he gave on screen in 2006: "Blood Diamond." [For the record, 2:26 p.m.: An earlier version of this post stated that DiCaprio scored no nominations for "The Departed" or "Blood Diamond." He was nominated for lead actor for his role in "Blood Diamond."]

Personally, I believe that if DiCaprio had campaigned honestly for lead status for "The Departed," he would've gotten a free ride aboard the film's best picture victory and won. Today he remains Oscarless.

-- Tom O'Neil

Photo: Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit." Credit: Paramount