Women shut out of Best Director race despite record number of total female Oscar nominees
Though vocal fans on social media and Oscar prognosticators alike hoped for at least one female filmmaker to land among the 2020 Oscar nominees for Best Director, Little Women helmer Greta Gerwig — or any other woman, for that matter — failed to make the cut Monday morning, though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has indicated a record 62 women were nominated across all other categories, which is the most in Oscar history.
For the second consecutive year, though, the Academy has nominated an all-male slate of Best Director contenders, including Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Todd Phillips (Joker), Sam Mendes (1917), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), and Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) — all of whom had significant prior statistical backing on the precursor circuit that pointed to an Oscar nomination.
Insecure star Issa Rae, who announced this year’s nominations alongside actor John Cho, made a point to highlight the lack of women in the category (and her disappointment) as she quipped, “Congratulations to those men,” after revealing the Best Director nominees.
In recent weeks, many speculated the success of Gerwig’s ensemble adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel — which has made $107 million worldwide in under one month of release — would propel her into the category anyway, which would have made the 36-year-old filmmaker the first woman in the category’s 92-year existence with two Best Director nods (she was previously nominated for directing 2017’s Lady Bird).
Gerwig remains the only woman to receive a Best Director nomination since Kathryn Bigelow (2009’s The Hurt Locker) became the first woman to win the award in 2010.
Florence Pugh, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her turn as Amy in Little Women, called Gerwig’s director snub “incredibly upsetting.” “She’s literally made a film about this,” Pugh told EW. “She made a film about women working and their relationship with money and their relationship with working in a man’s world. That’s literally what Little Women is about, so [this] only underlines how important it is — because it’s happening.”
Monday’s nominations come on the heels of a particularly tense Oscar contest that has seen sustained calls for more gender inclusion among the Best Director contenders, as Little Women — among other female-directed 2019 films like Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (one overall nomination), Lulu Wang’s The Farewell (zero nominations), and Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers (zero nominations) — received some of the best critical reviews of the year despite failing to generate major heat on the precursor awards trail.
In 2018, Gerwig became only the fifth woman in history to receive a Best Director nomination at the Oscars when the Academy recognized her for helming the 2017 coming-of-age hit Lady Bird, also starring Little Women‘s Saoirse Ronan.
For her work on the 1976 film Seven Beauties, Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmüller was the first woman to be nominated for Best Director in 1977. It would take 17 years before another woman (The Piano‘s Jane Campion) would receive a nomination. In subsequent years, only three more female filmmakers — Lost In Translation‘s Sofia Coppola in 2004, The Hurt Locker‘s Kathryn Bigelow in 2010, and Gerwig in 2017 and 2020 — would compete for the Best Director Oscar. Bigelow remains the only woman to have won the award.
“I feel such an enormous debt of gratitude to Louisa May Alcott, to Lina Wertmüller, to Jane Campion, to Agnès Varda — these godmothers who’ve come before us,” Gerwig previously told EW as she reflected on her career at the Academy’s 2019 Governors Awards. “It is not lost on me, what this moment is. It’s all very cumulative and very moving. It feels fated in a very wonderful way.”
- Oscar nominee Florence Pugh reacts to Greta Gerwig snub: ‘It’s incredibly upsetting’
- Greta Gerwig on her 30-year journey to directing Little Women: ‘It feels fated’
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- Number of female directors behind top-grossing films reached record high in 2019