Women Directors Could Set an Oscar Record in Screenplay Categories (and More)

·4 min read

The fight for women to be recognized for their directorial achievements stretches back for decades, but, too often, the screenwriters aren’t given that same spotlight. However, this year presents a unique situation where female filmmakers have also penned the top awards contenders for adapted screenplay. These leading contenders include Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”), Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Lost Daughter”), Rebecca Hall (“Passing”) and Siân Heder (“CODA”).

If three of the writer-directors are nominated for best adapted screenplay, it’ll be the most female-written films recognized since 1991, which included “Europa Europa” (Agnieszka Holland), “Fried Green Tomatoes” (Fannie Flagg and Carol Sobieski) and “The Prince of Tides” (Becky Johnston, who shared her nom with Pat Conroy). If all four manage to receive noms, it would be the most in Academy history, as well as the most that have been directed by women.

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Three of the women were recognized by the USC Scripter Awards, whose previous nominees have a solid translation to Academy attention. Heder, who wasn’t nominated, was ineligible because “CODA” is a remake of an international feature and not based on a previously published work.

Seven films, written by women, have won adapted screenplay in 93 years: “Little Women” (1933) by Sarah Y. Mason, “Mrs. Miniver” (1942) by Claudine West (shared with George Froeschel, James Hilton and Arthur Wimperis), “A Room with a View” (1986) and “Howard’s End” (1992) by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, “Sense and Sensibility” (1995) by Emma Thompson, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003) by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (also shared with Peter Jackson) and “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) by Diana Ossana (shared with Larry McMurtry).

For comparison, there have been five years in which three female-written films have been recognized in original screenplay (1949, 1950, 1955, 2007 and 2017). 2007 was also the only time that three women, with sole writing credits, were nominated in the same category (Tamara Jenkins for “The Savages,” Nancy Oliver for “Lars and the Real Girl” and winner Diablo Cody for “Juno”). Two sole women writers have never won both screenplay categories (we were close last year with “Nomadland” and “Promising Young Woman”).

Each of the four scribes in this year’s race would bring their own historical feats if they make the cut.

Gyllenhaal would be the third woman ever to be recognized for acting and screenplay categories, behind Oscar winners Ruth Gordon and Emma Thompson. Only the latter won acting and screenplay categories for best actress for “Howard’s End” and “Sense and Sensibility,” respectively. Gyllenhaal has one previous Oscar nom in supporting actress for “Crazy Heart” (2009).

In addition, Gyllenhaal, along with her Netflix counterpart Rebecca Hall, would be the second (and third?) woman to be nominated for a feature directorial debut. The first was Emerald Fennell, who won original screenplay last year for “Promising Young Woman.”

Campion, who won original screenplay for “The Piano” (1993), would be the first woman to ever be nominated in both screenplay categories. A reminder that a directing nod for Campion for “Dog” would mark the first woman director to be nominated twice since she became the second woman to ever be nominated in ’93.

Heder would be the second woman nominated for penning a remake of a previous film (the first was Greta Gerwig for 2019’s “Little Women”), and the first to do it from a non-English feature (based on the French spoken “La Famille Bélier” from 2014).

There are other female scribes, both sole and co-writers, who are in the conversation for nods, though they have slimmer odds of making the cut. Kim Morgan (“Nightmare Alley”), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“No Time to Die”), Becky Johnston (“House of Gucci”), Nicole Holofcener (“The Last Duel”), Erica Schmidt (“Cyrano”), Emma Seligman (“Shiva Baby”) and Quiara Alegría Hudes (“In the Heights”) are all in contention.

Also notable, all the women filmmakers are in the conversation for additional noms in best director (with most serving as producers on their movies). Campion is currently ranked in the top spot on the Oscar predictions chart, with Heder picking up serious momentum after “CODA” has performed very well with the precursors. The women’s leadership behind the camera will likely produce a record for the most acting performances nominated, from films helmed by women; contenders Benedict Cumberbatch, Olivia Colman, Kirsten Dunst, Troy Kotsur, Ruth Negga and Kodi Smit-McPhee are highly probable for nominations, and perhaps even wins.

2022 Academy Awards Predictions

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