Viola Davis is one of those actors who keeps turning up in bit parts of major movies with a brief supporting role, but ends up over shadowing her, more established, co-stars with superb performances. She’s only recently rocketed to international stardom with her latest film ‘The Help’, for which she has been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. It’s quite a feat, considering she is a 46 year old African American woman, a demographic for which very few roles are awarded. The road taken to reach this level of achievement has been a long and slow process of hard graft for Davis and thoroughly deserving.

Davis’s early career achievements came from the theater were she was quickly recognized for her talent and won two Tony awards. At the same time she was playing bit parts on TV shows like CSI and Law and Order, with the occasional film role. One film in particular may have been the catalyst for her success…’Out of Sight’, George Clooney’s first majorly successful film since the flop ‘Batman & Robin’, had a small cameo voice over by Davis and since then Clooney has been a close friend, even letting Viola and her husband spend their Honeymoon at his Lake Como Mansion. She then began popping up in several Clooney projects and had her first major role opposite Clooney in ‘Solaris’.

Viola Davis finally got the chance to act opposite one of her heroes, Meryl Streep, in 2008’s ‘Doubt’. A film about the inappropriate relationship between a priest and an alter boy, with Meryl Streep as the Nun who confronts him. Viola Davis played the mother of the boy, a part which only required her to appear in the film for 11 min of the total running time of 104min. 8 min of which was dedicated to one scene with just Davis and Streep. This scene is the one which the Academy decided to award her with a nomination, even though she was not in the film long enough to really claim the title of ‘Supporting actress’ which was more accurately aimed at Amy Adams, playing a fellow nun and in many more scenes with Streep. Viola Davis said she was so nervous to act opposite Meryl Streep that she prepared for here role by writing a 50 page biography for her character. This clearly seems to have worked…Click the link below to see the 8min scene that won Viola the nomination, but ultimately not the award…

In the scene the Nun (Meryl Streep) is trying to get the support of the boy’s mother (viola Davis) in trying to confront the priest on his immoral behavior…

Clip from IMDB - film 'Doubt' 2008

Some could argue that Viola Davis out-performed Meryl Streep in her own movie….even if that sounds blasphemous to Academy voters.

Fast forward to this weekend at the Oscars for 2012 on Sunday, which has Viola Davis, in ‘The Help’ up against her former cast mate Meryl Streep for the ‘Iron Lady’. Both actresses at the top of their game, but only one can walk away with the award. Both films have had their fair share of criticism though…’The Help’ was criticized by many African American actors for it’s portrayal of the white characters as being the saviours of the story, leading Star Trek’s George Takei to tweet, a somewhat hilarious retort, that they should have called it ‘White People Solve Racism’ – with the tagline ‘You’re welcome black people’.

The ‘Iron Lady’ has been accused of leaving out the politics from Marget Thatcher’s career to help portray her in a better light. Regardless of what criticisms both films received, no one would argue that either actress can be blamed for that. Their performances stand out from the films that support them.

Ultimately though I think Viola Davis deserves to be the winner on the night. Meryl Streep is however the favourite, but her performance in the ‘Iron Lady’, just seems like a good impersonation rather than a rich character study. By contrast Viola Davis shows the full range without any prosthetic make-up or a foreign accent.

We’ll see on the night…



  1. […] plan…no upsets, no dramas and the french pretty much took it all. I was however hoping that Viola Davis would take the Best Actress award, but alas the Academy chose to complete Meryl Streep’s bookend set instead. In any other year […]

  2. […] to best him. And I personally think Phoenix has done that. In 2008′s DOUBT, you can see that Viola Davis’s performance (although very brief) made such an impact alongside Meryl Streep that they nominated her for a […]

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