The fight for women to be recognized for their achievements as directors goes back decades, but, too often, screenwriters don’t get the same attention. However, this year presents a unique situation where the female directors have also written top contenders for the Adapted Screenplay awards. These main contenders include Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”), Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Lost Girl”), Rebecca Hall (“Passing”) and Siân Heder (“CODA”).
If three of the writer-directors are nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, they will be the most female films recognized since 1991, including “Europa Europa” (Agnieszka Holland), “Fried Green Tomatoes” (Fannie Flagg and Carol Sobieski) and ” The Prince of Tides” (Becky Johnston, who shared his name with Pat Conroy). If all four manage to receive names, it would be the most in Academy history, as well as the most female-run.
Three of the women have been recognized by the USC Scripter Awards, whose previous nominees have a solid translation for the Academy’s attention. Heder, who was not nominated, was ineligible because “CODA” is a remake of an international feature film and not based on a previously released work.
Seven films, written by women, have won the 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 ).
By comparison, there were five years in which three films written by women were recognized in the original screenplay (1949, 1950, 1955, 2007 and 2017). 2007 was also the only time three women, with writing credits alone, were nominated in the same category (Tamara Jenkins for “The Savages”, Nancy Oliver for “Lars and the Real Girl” and Diablo winner Cody for “Juno”). Only two female screenwriters 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 historic feats if successful.
Gyllenhaal would be the third woman to be recognized in the acting and screenplay categories, behind Oscar winners Ruth Gordon and Emma Thompson. Only the latter won Best Actress acting and screenplay categories for “Howard’s End” and “Sense and Sensibility,” respectively. Gyllenhaal was previously nominated for an Oscar as a supporting actress for “Crazy Heart” (2009).
Additionally, Gyllenhaal, along with her Netflix counterpart Rebecca Hall, would be the second (and third?) woman to be nominated for a feature debut. The first was Emerald Fennell, who won the original screenplay last year for “Promising Young Woman.”
Campion, who won the original screenplay for “The Piano” (1993), would be the first woman to be nominated in both screenplay categories. A reminder that a nod to Campion’s directing for “Dog” would mark the first female director to be nominated twice since becoming the second woman to be nominated in 1993.
Heder would be the second woman nominated for writing a remake of a previous film (the first was Greta Gerwig for “Little Women” in 2019), and the first to do so from a non-English feature film (based on the spoken French “La Famille Bélier” of 2014).
There are other female scribes, both sole and co-authors, who are in the conversation for the nods, though they’re less likely to make the cut. Kim Morgan (“Nightmare Alley”), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“No Time to Die”), Becky Johnston (“Maison Gucci”), Nicole Holofcener (“The Last Duel”), Erica Schmidt (“Cyrano”), Emma Seligman (“Shiva Baby”) and Quiara Alegría Hudes (“In the Heights”) are all in the running.
Also of note, all of the female filmmakers are in conversation for additional Best Director nominations (most serving as producers on their films). Campion is currently ranked No. 1 on the Oscar predictions chart, with Heder gaining some serious momentum after “CODA” performed very well with the precursors. The leadership of women behind the camera will likely set a record for most nominated acting performances, from female-led films; contenders Benedict Cumberbatch, Olivia Colman, Kirsten Dunst, Troy Kotsur, Ruth Negga and Kodi Smit-McPhee are highly likely for nominations, and maybe even wins.