The Nomadland star won as a producer and as an actress for the Chloé Zhao-directed movie.

By Joey Nolfi
April 25, 2021 at 11:37 PM EDT
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The Academy is honking its horn in favor of Nomadland's Frances McDormand.

After a contentious awards season that saw her fellow nominees take key precursors in the run-up to the Oscars, Chloé Zhao's Nomadland producer-star emerged victorious to take Best Actress — her third career Academy Award — at Sunday night's ceremony. She is now the most decorated living actress at the Oscars (three trophies for acting, one for Best Picture), and the first woman to win Best Actress and Best Picture (as a producer of Nomadland) for the same film. Her total tally stands at four — more than any other living actress. The only other actress with four Oscars remains Katharine Hepburn (all for acting), who died in 2003.

"I have no words. My voice is in my sword," she said in her acceptance speech, quoting Macbeth — an adaptation of which she's soon slated to star in opposite Denzel Washington. "We know the sword is our work, and I like work. Thank you for knowing that, and thanks for this."

Frances McDormand wins Best Actress
Frances McDormand wins Best Actress at the Oscars for 'Nomadland.'
| Credit: ABC

The 63-year-old actress took the trophy over pre-season favorites like Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman), Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom actress Viola Davis, who was expected by many to win the Oscar after she took the Screen Actors Guild Award earlier this month. Ahead of the Oscars telecast, each of the major precursors honored a different 2021 Academy Award nominee: BAFTAs (McDormand), SAG Awards (Davis), Critics Choice Awards (Mulligan), Golden Globes (Day), and Venice's Volpi Cup (Kirby).

"My happiest moment tonight was when Fran won," Zhao, who became the first Asian woman (and first woman of color in general) to win Best Director, said of McDormand's victory in the Oscars press room on Sunday night. "I think sometimes people might not know what she had done out there, as a producer and as an actress — how open and how vulnerable she has been and how much she has helped me to make this movie and helped all the nomads to feel comfortable on set. She really is Nomadland, and I'm so happy she got that award."

McDormand previously took home Best Actress statuettes for Fargo and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best films.

Related content:

Nomadland

Nomadland (2021 movie)

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  • Movie
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  • Chloe Zhao

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