Arnold Leo, a longtime East Hampton resident, always thought of his daughter Melissa Leo as a talent, but when he saw her performance as the "absolutely flamboyant, brassy mother" in The Fighter, he said, he knew it was something special and he's relieved the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences agreed.
"I was astonished by her performance. I've seen her play a number of different characters -- they're not always working class girls like in Frozen River," for which she was a Spirit Award in 2009. "She's also played rich bitches and bad women, innocent little housewives, but this was an absolutely astonishing performance. I must say I was really knocked over by it."
Melissa Leo's portrayal of Alice Ward, the tough mother of 9, including the once pride of Lowell, MA, turned crack-addict Dicky Ward and champion fighter Micky Ward, earned her Oscar gold on Sunday night. And, dropping the F-Bomb during her Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech earned the 50 year old seasoned actress some notoriety as the only actor in the history of the Academy Award's 83 years to do so.
"That just blurted out," her father said on Monday. "She's apologized for having done that on national TV." But, it didn't shock him. He used the same expletive in describing his reaction watching her acceptance speech from his home.
Melissa Leo grew up in New York City and Vermont, spent summers visiting her father in East Hampton after her parents divorced when she was a child. A fisherman and the longtime secretary of the East Hampton Baymen's Association, Arnold Leo was once an actor himself, though he's not quite sure that's where his daughter got the acting bug.
Leo said he decided not to be social on what was about to be his daughter's biggest night because of anxiety and tension surrounding a controversy over ads his daughter had taken out, campaigning for the award. There had been talk on blogs and in the news media that she had hurt her chances at the award because of the ads, such as one in Variety, that featured Leo glammed up, a 180 degree turn from the character she played.
Leo said his daughter decided on the campaign as a way to rail against the fact that she is older, and was not initially billed by Paramount Pictures as one of the films' stars.
He was relieved to see that the academy was "not suckered" by what he said was bloggers' campaign for other actresses to win. "The fact that despite Amy Adams’ very great popularity in Hollywood, despite the obvious attraction that the kid [Hailee Steinfeld] is so good that we should encourage her, despite these dangers in the voting, Melissa won," he said. "It is very good that the academy in their voting is basically done on the work itself."
Leo said he has not even had a chance to talk to his daughter, who thanked him and her mother in her acceptance speech. "I haven’t even sent her an email yet. For one thing, I know she was up all night, she was on ABC Good Morning America at 8 a.m. and said so."
But, the two are very close, and on Wednesday he is flying to New Orleans where his daughter is filming the HBO series Treme.