Greta Gerwig’s nomination for her first major directing project, Lady Bird, lands her in notable company as one of only five women who’ve ever been nominated for Best Director by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Talk about your boy’s club. Men have dominated the Best Director nominations throughout the history of the Academy Awards. However, critics are crushing on the tale of a 17-year old artistically-inclined girl coming of age in Sacramento, Calif., so who knows? Maybe Gerwig can bring home the Oscar gold this year. Can you name the other four women who received the nod?
When Bigelow won for her Iraq War thriller, her ex-husband, James Cameron said her movie was “consummately good filmmaking . . . she’s outgunned the guys, you know, definitely.” Not bad recognition coming from the guy who was nominated the same year for Avatar. The guys she outgunned included not only Cameron but also Lee Daniels (Precious), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), and Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds), Bigelow was the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Director.
Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, 2004
Coppola didn’t win Best Director for her acclaimed film, but Lost in Translation did take home the Golden Globe for best musical/comedy motion picture. Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray starred in the romantic comedy-drama that Coppola also wrote.
This was the year that Best Picture and Best Director Oscar honors went to Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and director Peter Jackson.
Jane Campion for The Piano, 1994
Steven Spielberg won his first Best Director award that year for Schindler’s List, beating out Campion’s drama about a mute piano player and her daughter, set in New Zealand during the mid-19th century. The movie did pick up Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Holly Hunter), and Best Supporting Actress (Anna Paquin).
Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties, 1977
Wertmüller became the first woman ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director. She received her nomination for the Italian language drama she wrote about a World War II everyman who deserts the Italian army during World War II and is captured by the Germans. Rocky won Best Director that year for John G. Avildsen and also won Best Picture.
Look at the dates of these nominations and you’ll see that nominations for Best Director for women have been not only few but also far between. Seventeen years elapsed after Wertmüller’s recognition before the next nomination for a woman.