Jennifer Jason Leigh has had a long, interesting career in film, but much like Leonardo DiCaprio was (until last night), she’s been largely ignored by the Academy. This year’s awards ceremony marked her first nomination–for supporting actress in The Hateful Eight–but, as pointed out by Stuart Mitchner of Town Topics, the role was much more than a supporting one.
In the film, Jennifer took on the character of Daisy Domergue, a rough-talking, hard-living wild West gangster who gets herself arrested and hauled through a blizzard to await her fate.
“She’ll try anything, she’ll push it all the way. She’s crazy like a fox. You don’t know if you should feel sorry for her; you don’t know if you should despise her,” said producer Stacy Sher.
For Jennifer Jason Leigh, the fact that she was nominated at this point in her career–not long after she thought she might not come back to Hollywood after having a child–was a wonderful feeling.
“It feels incredibly sweet, it really does. I mean, to be recognized at this time in my life? I didn’t expect any of this, so it is absolutely lovely and I feel very happy and grateful,” Leigh said on a recent podcast.
Leigh says she took a break from the spotlight after a successful career because, at the age of 48, she had a baby and saw her marriage of five years end. For her, acting wasn’t worth the struggle of finding the right roles when she had other priorities.
“I love acting, but I am a mom and the roles just weren’t coming because of a mixture of things: because I’m not ambitious and because I’m older and I had a baby. I really felt like I had said a graceful and completely happy goodbye to acting in a significant way,” she reflects. “And I had sort of made my peace with that.”
The Hateful Eight isn’t the only critically-acclaimed film starring Leigh to come out in recent months; Anomalisa was a years-long stop-motion project that progressed through a lot of changes in her own life.
“My Lisa’s still my Lisa. But when we started it I had just gotten married, and when we recorded it eight years later I was divorced and a single mom, so a lot had happened to me in those years. I understood the ending for Lisa in a more significant way, perhaps, but I also love how she still has so much hope,” Jennifer said.
Though Jennifer Jason Leigh lost to Alicia Vikander for Best Supporting Actress, the fact that she was nominated at this stage in her career meant a lot. Besides the Oscar, she was also nominated for and won the best supporting actress National Board of Review Award, was nominated for the Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, and Independent Spirit awards.