A Sony spokesman said a studio employee incorrectly submitted Streep's name in the lead-actress category for "Adaptation," in which she plays author Susan Orlean. The studio considers it a supporting-actress role and has been pushing Streep in that category for other film awards.
The mistake may have split Streep's votes between "Adaptation" and her other contending role for "The Hours," which Paramount also had submitted in the lead-actress category.
Streep was not nominated for either part when guild nominations came out Tuesday. For the Golden Globes, Streep won the supporting-actress prize for "Adaptation" and was nominated as lead actress for "The Hours," along with co-star Nicole Kidman, who won the lead-actress award.
For Academy Awards nominations that come out Feb. 11, Streep is considered a strong contender for a best-actress nomination for "The Hours" and a supporting-actress nomination for "Adaptation."
Academy voters are free to cast ballots for an actor in the lead or supporting categories as they see fit. But the guild requires studios to designate actors in a particular category, and Sony discovered its mistake when ballots went out in December.
"It was an unfortunate clerical error," Sony spokesman Steve Elzer said Thursday. "She is one of the most extraordinary actresses in the history of film, and we don't believe that this accident will affect the outcome of the Academy race."
A similar error by Universal for the 2002 awards resulted in Jennifer Connelly's nomination in the guild's lead-actress category, rather than supporting actress, for "A Beautiful Mind." Connelly lost out on the guild award but won the supporting-actress
The year before that, Benicio Del Toro won the lead-actor honor from the guild for "Traffic," then received the supporting-actor prize at the Oscars.