When Barbra Streisand was about to present the Oscar for best director at the 82nd annual Academy Awards on March 7, 2010, she glanced at the winner’s name and intoned, “Well, the time has come.” She then announced that Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win in that category, for The Hurt Locker. (Following Bigelow’s speech, the two barrier-busting women were played off with Helen Reddy’s 1972 smash “I Am Woman.”)
More history could be made when the nominations for the 93rd annual Academy Awards are announced on March 15. There’s a good chance that two women could be competing for best director for the first time. Chloé Zhao is considered the front-runner for Nomadland. Regina King is also likely to receive a nod for One Night in Miami.
Zhao, who is Chinese, and/or King, an African-American, would be the first women of color to receive Oscar nods for directing.
Five women have been nominated for best director over the years, but never two in the same year. The female nominees have been Lina Wertmüller (for 1976’s Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (for 1993’s The Piano), Sofia Coppola (for 2003’s Lost in Translation), Bigelow (for 2009’s The Hurt Locker) and Greta Gerwig (for 2017’s Lady Bird).
The other directors thought to have the best chance of being nominated this year, in addition to Zhao and King, are Lee Isaac Chung for Minari, Aaron Sorkin for The Trial of the Chicago 7, Spike Lee for Da 5 Bloods, David Fincher for Mank and Paul Greengrass for News of the World. Only five directors are nominated, so not all of these front-runners will make it.
Four other female directors are in the conversation this year, but they are considered relative long-shots for nominations. They are Eliza Hittman (Never Rarely Sometimes Always), Kelly Reichardt (First Cow), Coppola (On the Rocks) and Kitty Green (The Assistant).