A History of Female Writers and Directors at the Oscars
By John Boone
If Lady Bird's Greta Gerwig is nominated for a Best Director Oscar on Tuesday, as she is expected to be, she will be only the fifth woman ever nominated. With 2018 marking the 90th annual Academy Awards, that means the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has only recognized four women among a possible 437 total nomination slots, or 0.009 percent.
The only four women nominated for Best Director since 1929 are: Lina Wertmuller, nominated in 1977 for Seven Beauties; Jane Campion, nominated in 1994 for The Piano; Sofia Coppola, nominated in 2004 for Lost in Translation; and Kathryn Bigelow, who became the first woman to win Best Director in 2010, for The Hurt Locker.
Female writers have fared considerably better in the dual screenplay categories -- Best Original and Best Adapted Screenplay -- but still, only 16 have ever won the Oscar. (Two women, Frances Marion and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, have each won twice for a grand total of 18 collective wins.) It has been a decade since Diablo Cody last won for Juno in 2008.
Which is a lot of stats to say: Oof. And not one of the aforementioned women is a woman of color, who face even worse odds here.
With the Time's Up effort dominating the conversation this awards season, the obvious lack of gender parity in these positions and in recognizing the few women who are given the opportunity to fill these roles has been a key point in the conversation.
Later in that show, Barbra Streisand, who won Best Director at the Globes for Yentl, went off-script and said, "Backstage I heard [that] I was the only woman to get the Best Director award. You know that was 1984 -- that was 34 years ago. Folks, time's up! We need more women directors and more women to be nominated for Best Director. There are so many films out there that are so good directed by women." (Streisand later singled out Mudbound's Dee Rees and Wonder Woman's Patty Jenkins.)
The Academy Awards and Golden Globes are obviously two very different beasts (markedly, Streisand was never nominated for an Oscar for directing Yentl), but the message remains true. Leading into this Tuesday's nominations announcement, Gerwig is the sole woman still considered to be in the mix for a Best Director spot, having already picked up a Directors Guild nod as well as being named Best Director by the National Board of Review.
What are the chances Gerwig would go on to win Best Director? Bigelow is the only female director to win thus far (with The Hurt Locker also winning Best Picture) while both Campion and Coppola instead took home Oscars for their screenplays. Gerwig is also expected to be nominated for Best Original Screenplay, so there's the possibility that precedent could continue here. (Though, she'll see tough competition in predicted nominees Get Out and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.)
If she isn't nominated, Gerwig could join a class of women that includes Lisa Cholodenko, Debra Granik, Penny Marshall and Streisand, herself, whose films were nominated for Best Picture but were left out of the directing field. (Their films being The Kids Are All Right, Winter's Bone, Awakenings and The Prince of Tides, respectively.) All will be revealed tomorrow, Jan. 23 at 5:22 a.m. PT/8:22 ET, when nominations are streamed on Oscars.com. Here's hoping Gerwig is nominated for Best Director and brings the percentage up to 0.01, because time's up on that.