2018 Awards Profile: Justin Kelly’s ‘JT Leroy’ with Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern

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Welcome to the 2018 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you at some point this year (at least at this time of writing). We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday through Friday to talk about their awards hopes and analyze the film’s chances for success. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a movie, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

FILM: “JT Leroy”
PRODUCERS: Cassian Elwes, Gary Pearl, Dave Hansen, Mark Amin, Julie Yorn, Patrick Walmsley, Thor Bradwell

DIRECTOR: Justin Kelly
WRITERS: Justin Kelly, Savannah Knoop

CAST: Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Diane Kruger, Jim Sturgess, Courtney Love, Kelvin Harrison Jr.

SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): A young woman named Savannah Knoop spends six years pretending to be the celebrated author JT LeRoy, the made-up literary persona of her sister-in-law.

Image result for Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT LeroyWriters have often times used personas or pseudonyms in their writing to give themselves greater freedom. American author Laura Albert wrote a trio of novels under the pseudonym JT Leroy – “Sarah” (1999), “The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things” (1999) and “Harold’s End” (2005). However, Justin Kelly’s new film, “JT Leroy,” focuses the narrative elsewhere. Instead, it chronicles Savannah Knoop, who played the alter ego JT Leroy in real life and was Albert’s sister-in-law. Kristen Stewart takes on the role of Savannah Knoop. Laura Dern co-stars as Laura Albert.

Previous Oscar nominee Laura Dern could earn her third Oscar nomination for her role as Laura Albert. Dern is coming off her biggest year yet, having run the awards season gauntlet for her role as Renata Klein on HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” which is set to return. HBO also nabbed distribution for her latest drama, “The Tale,” where Dern plays a woman forced to re-examine her first sexual relationship. Having Dern back in awards consideration will only help her chances at reaping a nomination for “JT Leroy.” Additionally, the role comes off a bit like Chris Cooper’s role of John Laroche in “Adaptation.” The idea of playing the creator of a literary alter ego and not knowing where the lines between J.T. and Albert stop and end is fascinating.

Meanwhile, star Kristen Stewart has been in the hunt for her first Oscar nomination for a while. The actress made a worldwide name for herself as Bella Swan in the “Twilight” franchise. The stigma of heading a young adult franchise has plagued people’s reception of the rest of her career. Her recent work with Olivier Assayas has helped critics take Stewart more seriously. Her role in “Clouds of Sils Maria” won plenty of critics’ prizes, including the French Cesar for Best Supporting Actress. The accolades continued for last year’s “Personal Shopper,” also directed by Assayas. Perhaps this role will earn her the coveted first Oscar nomination.

This film seems poised to be the breakout for writer/director Justin Kelly. Kelly’s biggest film to date was the James Franco-starring film “I Am Michael,” which opened on Netflix. He also did the gay pornographer crime drama “King Cobra” with Christian Slater and the upcoming mystery “Welcome the Stranger.” There isn’t quite an awards track record for Kelly. This usually points to Adapted Screenplay being the more likely shot at awards glory. However, if the film becomes an indie sensation, there might be a path to picture and director.

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director – Justin Kelly
  • Best Actress – Kristen Stewart
  • Best Supporting Actress – Laura Dern
  • Best Adapted Screenplay – Justin Kelly, Savannah Knoop

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