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'The Reader' opening in December puts Kate Winslet in an Oscars race against herself

August 28, 2008 | 12:29 pm

Following a successful Gotham screening, "The Reader" will now unspool in December, thus giving the Weinstein company a potentially strong Academy Awards entry.

The move also gives the film's star Kate Winslet an Oscar-sized headache: which of her two horses to ride in this year's awards derby?


Winslet made Oscar history by racking up five nominations before she was 32 years old, but she has yet to win. She already has one prestige picture, "Revolutionary Road", due out in December. In that domestic drama, she is reunited with her "Titanic" leading man Leonardo DiCaprio under the direction of her Oscar-winning husband Sam Mendes ("American Beauty"). Set in the 1950s, it's a lush-looking production.

Certainly on paper, "The Reader" is just the kind of film that gets showered with Oscar nominations. Adapted by David Hare from the bestselling novel (and Oprah book club pick) by Bernard Schlink, the film is directed by Stephen Daldry ("The Hours") and co-stars Ralph Fiennes. The role of Hannah Schmitz allows Winslet to age from a sexy thirtysomething who seduces a teenager to an elderly woman on trial for her part in the Holocaust.

Oscar voters love to see that aging process on screen, if not in real life. That preference probably helped last year's champ Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") prevail as aging chanteuse Edith Piaf. And Winslet also gets to use an accent, thereby demonstrating an acting skill that has proved irresistible to Oscar voters in the past (think Meryl Streep in just about any movie).

Now Winslet needs to decide which of these roles is the one she wants to push hardest for awards consideration. She could slip down to supporting for one, leaving the leading field open for a nod for the other. To date, this English beauty has had no luck in either race with two losing nods in supporting — "Sense and Sensibility" (1996) and "Iris" (2002) — and three losing bids in lead: "Titanic" (1998), "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2005) and "Little Children" (2007).

Should she lose one more time, she will tie the actresses most snubbed by Oscar: Deborah Kerr in the lead category and supporting player Thelma Ritter. And if Winslet pulls off that Oscar rarity and reaps nominations for both roles (one in lead, one in supporting — the rules won't permit two noms in one race) and still remains winless, she would stand alone as Oscar's biggest loser among actresses. (Peter O'Toole is the biggest loser among actors with eight defeats).

(Photos: Paramount Vantage, "The Reader")