How actors are nominated for Oscars: A primer

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group behind the Oscars, has approved diversity-minded membership changes.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group behind the Oscars, has approved diversity-minded membership changes.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Who nominates the actors for the Oscars? And how does the voting process work? Here’s a step-by-step primer:

The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences has 6,261 voting members. The entire body votes for best picture.

Nominations for most of the remaining categories are determined by the balloting of the academy’s various branches. A committee selects the foreign-language film nominees.


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Nominations for the four acting categories are determined by the actors branch. It is, by far, the academy’s largest branch with 1,138 voting members.

Before Friday’s announcement, to become a member of the actors branch, an actor had to apply in writing and have that application signed by two current branch members. Under those rules, to qualify for membership, an actor needed three film credits, including one from the past five years. One exception: Most Oscar nominees receive an immediate invitation.

The academy’s board of governors — currently 51 members, three from each of the academy’s 17 branches — votes on each applicant at a scheduled meeting with the results announced in June.

Once a member, an actor votes for Oscar nominations online or, if requested, by paper ballot.


For each of the four acting categories — lead actor and actress, supporting actor and actress — voters are asked to list up to five names, ranking them in order of preference.

These nomination ballots are sorted based on the voters’ first-place ranking. Actors receiving enough first-place votes — more than the threshold number arrived at by taking the total number of ballots received per category and dividing it by six (the number of possible nominees plus one) — become nominees.

After that first pass, PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants sort through the remaining ballots, removing the stack with the fewest votes and then reassigning those ballots to the voters’ second-place selection. Ballots continue to be redistributed until five nominees reach the threshold number or until there are only five nominees remaining. Once the nominees are determined, all academy members vote on the winners.


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