Frances McDormand was the star of the 2018 Oscars. The American actress took home the best actress award in a leading role for her movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a drama movie about Mildred Hayes, played by Frances McDormand, who tries drawing the society attention to her daughter’s unsolved murder. She rents 3 billboards with “Raped While Dying”, “And Still No Arrests?”, and “How Come, Chief Willoughby?” written on them.
The Oscar award wasn’t the actress’s first. She won her first Academy Award in 1996 for playing Marge Gunderson, the chief of police in Brainerd, Minnesota who’s seven months pregnant in the movie “Fargo”.
Starring in more than 40 movies with 5 Oscar nominations and 12 major awards, Frances McDormand is considered Oscar royalty.
Who is Frances McDormand and how did she become an Oscar award-winning actress with a long list of movies?
Early Life and Education
First of all, her birth name isn’t Frances McDormand. She was born Cynthia Smith in Gibson City, Illinois. She was adopted at the age of 1 and a half and was renamed by her adoptive parents Noreen Nickelson and Vernon McDormand.
Her parents had no biological children, they had 3 adopted children. She fell in love with movies and theater and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater from Bethany College in West Virginia. She also earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University, where she was also happened to be the roommate of actress Holly Hunter.
The random placing of the women worked great for them. They continued being friends and starred in multiple movies together: “Blood Simple” and “Raising Arizona”.
Frances McDormand’s Career
Frances McDormand made her film debut in the movie “Blood Simple”, which was also her husband’s and brother-in-law’s, Joel and Ethan Coen’s directorial debut.
The 1984 neo-noir crime movie, which tells the story of a jealous man who hires a private investigator to kill his wife and secret lover, won 5 awards in total. What’s special about the movie is that it was the beginning of Frances McDormand’s career and love life.
The Oscar-winning actress met her husband of 34 years in a typical romantic-comedy movie way. She auditioned for the movie which her now-husband was going to direct, but her reluctance to go in for the callback. She told AFP in an interview:
I had promised to watch my then boyfriend make his two-line debut on a TV soap.
She also joked saying that Joel Coen hired her only because she declined. They’re known to be a power couple in the movie industry not only because they’ve been married for over 3 decades, but for continuously working together on Oscar-winning movies.
Frances McDormand has taken home 2 Oscar awards for best actress in a leading role for her movies “Fargo” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. She has received 3 Oscar nominations for best actress in a supporting role.
Before gaining international reputation for her role in the movie “Fargo”, Frances McDormand was a theater actress. She starred in the 1984 Broadway revival of the drama“Awake and Sing!” as Hennie Berger.
Her role as Stella Kowalski in the 1988 play “A Streetcar Named Desire” earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Play. Her TV and theatrical roles made McDormand gain critical acclaim for her work in the acting field
She received her first Oscar nomination in the 1988 crime thriller movie “Mississippi Burning” for playing Mrs. Pell. Although the movie received a lot of backlash and criticism for fictionalizing history, the actress’s performance was praised. Variety magazine addressed Frances McDormand’s performance saying:
Glowing performance of Frances McDormand as the deputy’s wife who’s drawn to Hackman is an asset both to his role and the picture.
Unfortunately, the actress didn’t win the statuette, but she won several other awards for her role: she won the best actress award in supporting role at the 60th National Board of Review Awards, the 1988 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards and the 2nd Chicago Film Critics Association Awards.
Her second Oscar nomination and first win was for “Fargo”. The movie was named of the 100 greatest American films in history by the American Film Institute. With a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the website says: “Violent, quirky, and darkly funny, “Fargo” delivers an original crime story and a wonderful performance by McDormand.”
Frances McDormand continued wowing the members of the Academy when she played a supporting role in the movie “Almost Famous”. The 2000 comedy-drama directed by Cameron Crowe was based on his personal experiences of him touring with rock bands. Here, Frances played the main character’s, William Miller’s mother, Elaine Miller.
She was based on Crowe’s own mother who kept an eye on Crowe by showing up on the set. Cameron had asked his mother not to bother Frances on the set, but the ladies ended up getting along pretty well.
The character Elaine was the uncool mother who was overprotective of her children and didn’t care who she spoke to if it meant she had to reach to her son. She’s best known for her phone call where she scolds Stillwater’s lead guitarist Russell Hammond while trying to contact her son.
This is not some apron-wearing mother you’re speaking with – I know all about your Valhalla of decadence and I shouldn’t have let him go. He’s not ready for your world of compromised values and diminished brain cells that you throw away like confetti. Am I speaking to you clearly? If you break his spirit, harm him in any way, keep him from his chosen profession which is law – something you may not value, but I do – you will meet the voice on the other end of this telephone and it will not be pretty. Do we understand each other? I didn’t ask for this role, but I’ll play it. Now go do your best. Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid. Goethe said that. It’s not too late for you to become a person of substance, Russell. Please get my son home safely. You know, I’m glad we spoke.
One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when she freaks out in the middle of a class lecture and says: “Rock stars have kidnapped my son!”
“North Country”, a movie about the first major successful sexual harassment case in the United States, was another movie for which Frances McDormand received an Oscar nomination.
She played the character Glory, who was based on Patricia Shannon Kosmach. Glory is a strong woman who is forced to find strength to continue living with an incurable disease in a man’s world.
Movie critic Roger Ebert noted Frances’s performances in her previous movies and lead actress’s Charlize Theron’s chemistry: “North Country” is one of those movies that stir you up and make you mad, because it dramatizes practices you’ve heard about but never really visualized.
We remember that Frances McDormand played a woman police officer in this same area in Fargo, and we value that memory, because it provides a foundation for Josey Aimes. McDormand’s role in this movie is different and much sadder, but brings the same pluck and common sense to the screen.
Put these two women together and they can accomplish just about anything. Watching them do it is a great movie experience.”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was Frances McDormand’s newest movie that earned her an Academy Award. Here, she played a vengeful mother trying to find justice for her raped and murdered daughter.
Frances McDormand amazed all audiences with her performance in the 2017 critically acclaimed movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”.
Her character Mildred Hayes was written with specifically McDormand in director’s McDonagh’s mind. Frances felt at first that Mildred was younger than her and suggested playing the murdered daughter’s grandmother instead. Her husband, Joel Coen, eventually persuaded her to take the part regardless of her age.
The movie received critical acclaim and Frances was widely praised for her performance. Her character has no time for changing clothes and looking after her appearance, she is fighting for justice. She tries to catch the local police’s attention with billboards after they had failed to locate the criminal who raped and killed her daughter.
In an emotional rollercoaster, we see how Mildred is constantly in the center of attention in hopes of avenging her daughter’s murder.
Variety magazine’s Owen Gleiberman said: “It’s Mildred’s glowering refusal to back down that defines her, and McDormand brilliantly spotlights the conflicted humanity beneath the stony facade.”
Frances McDormand took home her second Oscar award for her role and electrified the audience with her acceptance speech.
And now I’d like to get some perspective, because I’ve got some things to say. If I may be so honored to have all the female nominees in every category stand with me tonight. The actors, the filmmakers, the producers, the directors, the writers, the cinematographer, the composers, the songwriters, the designers! Come on! Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight; invite us into your office in a couple days — or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best —and we’ll tell you all about them. I have two words to leave with you tonight: inclusion rider.
What does the Academy Award-winning actress mean by saying “inclusion rider”? She later explained that “inclusion rider” means that you can ask for and/or demand at least 50% diversity, not only in casting but also in the crew.
Frances McDormand is among the few actors who have achieved the triple crown of acting
The triple crown of acting refers actors who have won an Academy Award, Emmy Award, and Tony Award in the acting categories. McDormand completed the triple crown in 2015. In total, she has 5 Oscar nominations, 2 Tony Award nominations, 1 acting Emmy nominations, and has won 4 of them.
The feminist and veteran actress continues proving to the movie industry why she deserves more awards due to her brilliant performances. With an acting career spanning over 30 years, this only the beginning for McDormand.
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