This is coming from someone who adores the hell out of Alfonso Cuaron‘s space thriller and will probably reward and vote for Sandra Bullock for her impressive work at the end of the year. All I’ve been able to think about the past few weeks if we had put Viola Davis in that role, she would probably be winning the Oscar in a walk this year, even over Cate Blanchett. None of this is for certain but seeing her abilities in Doubt, The Help, and even earlier this year in Prisoners, where her role was written to the most common and minimal denominator, she elevated the work. It helps that actresses like Meryl Streep and Jessica Chastain have come out to bat for her, though sometimes in a pity-party kind of way which I don’t agree with, Davis DOES need more roles. You can make an argument for Lucy Lui in the same role and let her roll with it.
Jeffrey Wright‘s insertion into Gravity would be a bit trickier. Obviously you can take the easy way out and change Kowalski to a more common name and be done with it or you can insert a comment from Matt as he’s flying around about how he was adopted or how his father was Polish, and VUALA, Jeffrey Wright is in your movie and the audience accepts his name as Matt Kowalski. Wright is an AMAZING actor with a proven track record.
It just dawned on me that both Davis and Wright shared the screen in Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, both serviceable but at the mercy of a screenplay that didn’t give them room to move. He’s upstaged the great Denzel Washington in The Manchurian Candidate nearly a decade ago and was one of the memorable turns in the Oscar-nominated Syriana, which coincidentally won George Clooney his first Oscar. Clooney recognized that promise and cast him in his adaptation of The Ides of March. Let’s not forget how incredible he was in the Emmy megahit “Angels in America” which resulted in a win for Best Supporting Actor. At the moment, some are discussing Clooney as a feasible possibility for a Supporting Actor nomination. Maybe Wright would be in a more substantial conversation if given the freedom.