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Awards Profile 2020: Tom McCarthy’s ‘Stillwater’ from Focus Features

Tom McCarthy

Welcome to the 2020 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you in the coming year (at least at this time of writing). The series analyzes the films and their awards season potential, most notably for the Academy Awards, based on the talents attached, filmmakers involved, and story and source material. Monday through Friday until mid-May, AwardsCircuit will bring you a new and exciting project and discuss its chances for success. If you have a suggestion for a movie we should cover, include it in the comments section below. If you miss a film covered, click on the tag or category for “Awards Profiles.”

FILM: “Stillwater”

DISTRIBUTOR: Focus Features
DIRECTOR: Tom McCarthy
PRODUCERS: Liza Chasin, Jonathan King, Tom McCarthy
WRITER(S):Thomas Bidegain, Noé Debré, Marcus Hinchey, Tom McCarthy
CAST: Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin

SYNOPSIS: A father travels from Oklahoma to France to help his daughter who has been arrested for murder (IMDB)

SCHEDULED RELEASE: November 6, 2020



Tom McCarthy’s directorial efforts began with respected, but not widely-awarded independent features. However, his last theatrical film, Spotlight, won Best Picture, which puts eyes on what McCarthy is doing next. Could his upcoming film be his ticket back to the Dolby Theater next year? “Stillwater” is listed as a dramatic thriller on its IMDb page, which could generate an effective prestige drama from the Oscar-nominated director.

Oscar winner Matt Damon and Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin star as the father-daughter pair. They are the main actors in the film’s cast. This could give the actors a great deal of room to play off each other and bring an emotional weight to the story. Damon won an Oscar for writing “Good Will Hunting”and has been nominated three times for acting (“Good Will Hunting, “Invictus” and “The Martian”). He has one additional nomination for producing “Manchester by the Sea.” The Academy seems welcoming of Damon when he shifts from “movie star mode,” which could land him a nomination for Best Actor.

Breslin received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for 2006’s “Little Miss Sunshine,”when she was 10 years old. She has not been on Oscar’s radar since. The role of a daughter arrested for murder could give the actress a chance to sink her teeth into a weighty role and receive a Best Supporting Actress nomination.

The film’s November release date and star power suggests it could debut at Telluride or the Toronto International Film Festival. This would be the best way for the film to gain momentum heading into its release and awards season.


focus features logo

Focus Features had a hard time making a big splash in the awards race last year. “Harriet” received two nominations (Best Actress for Cynthia Erivo and Best Original Song), despite the movie being met with tepid reviews. The rest of their 2019 slate failed to ignite any passion. Todd Haynes’ procedural “Dark Waters” came and went over Thanksgiving and “Downton Abbey” didn’t receive any artisan nominations, but did well financially. Focus Features shifted their attention to “Harriet,” knowing it was their pony. Will they make “Stillwater” a priority?

Damon and Breslin are the only recognizable names in the cast. Focus Features might be able to build a campaign around the performances. Should that be the case, Damon and Breslin could miss out if bigger films start racking up nominations across the board.


  • Motion Picture: (Liza Chasin, Jonathan King, Tom McCarthy)
  • Director: (Tom McCarthy)
  • Actor in a Leading Role: (Matt Damon)
  • Actress in a Supporting Role: (Abigail Breslin)
  • Original Screenplay: (Thomas Bidegain, Noé Debré, Marcus Hinchey, Tom McCarthy)


  • Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama (Golden Globes): The Hollywood Foreign Press Association loves big movie stars at their party. Damon certainly fits that bill.
  • Outstanding Male Actor in a Leading Role (Screen Actors Guild Awards): Damon’s star power could land the support of his fellow actors.
  • Best Original Screenplay (Writer’s Guild of America): The WGA’s eligibility rules allow for some movement within the screenplay races. Depending on what’s eligible this year, McCarthy and his writing team could land a nomination.

Does Tom McCarthy have another winner on his hands? Let us know your thoughts on the awards prospects for “Stillwater” below!

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