02/25/2012 12:35 pm ET Updated Apr 26, 2012

Oscars 2012: Rooney Mara, Awards Season Behavior And The Academy Awards

Should an Oscar nominee's behavior on the awards circuit affect her chances of taking home a statuette? Whether or not you think so, conventional wisdom holds that it does.

So when an actress declines to play the "Oscar game," as Best Actress nominee Rooney Mara mostly has this season, people tend to talk. A lot. After the Academy Awards luncheon earlier this month, Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter tweeted, "I'm personally a little sick of Rooney Mara acting like it's a horrible chore to have to do an interview, or show up at a tribute, or...attend an Oscar nominees luncheon. Stop sulking. You're an Oscar nominee. If Meryl Streep is willing to do it, you can suck it up too."

That prompted Sasha Stone of Awards Daily to write a post saying, essentially, "This is her [Mara's] first big starring role, her first up front and center with the public - I think, personally, she's doing a great job handling it all."

Who's right? Moviefone spoke to a public relations professional who's presently coaching a client through awards season about whether it's possible to win an Oscar by being nice - or lose one by being a jerk.

In general, do you find that -- if a client wants a real solid shot at these big-ticket awards -- they have to play nice?

How do you prepare a client for the publicity onslaught that a big award nomination entails?
We do media-train people, but hopefully by the time we get to any kind of awards campaign, someone has done enough press that they're more or less comfortable.

So was Rooney Mara's problem that she isn't that experienced?
I think she just seems very uncomfortable with the whole thing. She seems like a person who just wants to be an actor and probably doesn't like the promotional aspect of her job at all.

And how do you handle a client who isn't all that interested in press?
If someone doesn't want to polish themselves for the media, it's finding the balance between letting them be true to themselves and not making them fake it, but also making sure that press find them approachable.

Did Mara's handlers fail to find that balance?
She isn't quite there, but she also did the big-ticket items -- the Vogue shoot and the interviews with Fincher. Some late-night appearances, the junket work. She hasn't been working the system as long as the other people have, and may not yet be comfortable with the attention she's getting.

During the 2009/2010 awards season, Mo'Nique was criticized for not playing the game but won anyway. What's the difference?
Mo'nique's thing was all about defying that Academy system, and her work stood out for itself. If Octavia Spencer did that too, she would probably still win, I think.

So unless defying the game is your "thing," you have to play along?
Yup. It's all so exciting, it's such an honor, how great to work with these people, etc. Then again, Rooney never had a shot of winning, so part of it is, why bother?

Do you think her PR team backed off from pressuring her to perform? Since she's not going to win anyway?
That would be my position, but I think I also tend to be more laid-back about everything.

Whereas, with Mo'Nique, she was a frontrunner -- so they took her natural approach and spun it into something that made sense.
The honest truth is, with Mo'Nique, you get into a situation where having a talented black woman tell a bunch of old white people she's not going to play their game. Don't they sort of HAVE to vote for her?

Yeah. Fair point. It makes me love her so much more.
Yeah -- me too.