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Greta Gerwig became the fifth woman ever nominated for a best director Oscar on Tuesday morning.
The Lady Bird helmer was the only woman nominated in the otherwise all-male field made up of Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk) and Jordan Peele (Get Out).
Gerwig’s nomination comes after she landed a Directors Guild nomination and a best director nomination from the Critics’ Choice Awards for her feature directorial debut. The National Board of Review and National Society of Film Critics also named her best director for her work on the film.
Still, neither Gerwig nor acclaimed female directors Patty Jenkins and Dee Rees landed nominations for the Golden Globes for best director, an omission that prompted presenter Natalie Portman to call out the “all-male nominees” in the category when she presented the award earlier this month.
Indeed, the lack of female nominees in the Golden Globes best director category was swiftly criticized after those nominations were unveiled last month.
The Oscar director nominees also weren’t as “so white” as the Globes’, with Jordan Peele becoming the fifth black nominee in the category. No African-American director has ever won the award.
Prior to Gerwig’s nomination, only four women had ever been nominated for the best director Oscar in the Academy Awards’ 90-year history: Lina Wertmuller (Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (The Piano), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) and Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker). Bigelow is the only woman to have won the award, in 2010.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Gerwig referenced Bigelow’s win.
“I remember watching Oscars when Kathryn Bigelow won and how much it meant to me. I was having a party and I was crying and so moved. It’s deeply meaningful, I’m very moved by all of it,” she said.
According to the annual Celluloid Ceiling study by San Diego State University, while the number of female directors on the 250 highest-grossing films last year inched slightly upward from 2016, to 11 percent from 7 percent, that amount was even with the level achieved in 2000, so the slight increase did not represent a significant gain when considering the historical trend.
As explained by SDSU’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film executive director Martha Lauzen, “2016 was a poor year for women’s employment as directors. Because fewer women directed films in 2016, it would not be surprising to see the percentage rebound in 2017 as a part of the normal fluctuation in these numbers.”
Also, the percentage of women working behind the scenes (as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers) on those 250 top-grossing films was relatively unchanged at 18 percent, according to the study.
When the study began in 1998, women made up 17 percent of those behind-the-scenes roles on the top 250 highest-grossing films.
The director category wasn’t the only one where women broke through the historically male ranks: Mudbound director of photography Rachel Morrison became the first woman ever nominated for a best cinematography Oscar.
Jan. 23, 11:58 a.m. This story has been updated to add Gerwig’s quote to THR about her nomination.
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