When Frances McDormand accepted a trophy for Best Actress for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” at the Independent Spirit Awards three years ago, she mentioned everyone she wanted to work with next. Then she looked at someone in the audience. “Chloé?” She said.
Few knew it at the time, but she chose director Chloé Zhao, who had previously been celebrated at the ceremony for her second film “The Rider”. At the time, McDormand had just met with Zhao to direct a small independent feature film that McDormand would produce and star in. On Thursday evening, the film “Nomadland”, which they shot together, won top honors at this year’s Independent Spirit Awards.
This continues the gentle street drama with the juggernaut’s journey through the awards season, which saw almost all of the major awards being given, including the highest honors from the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and Golden Globes. It goes on Sunday as a decided favorite in the Oscars.
Zhao also won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Director, making it the fourth woman to do so. If she wins the Oscars, as expected, she will only be the second woman to win the trophy since 2010’s Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker.
Several other Oscar favorites also triumphed at the Independent Spirit Awards. Supporting actress front runner Yuh-Jung Youn won for Minari, while Promising Young Woman filmmaker Emerald Fennell received another award for her script.
But some perennially on the verge of contestants have finally achieved a high profile win here, including Carey Mulligan, who won the Best Actress Award for Promising Young Woman and dedicated it to British actress Helen McCrory, who passed away this month. This Oscar category remains open: McDormand won the BAFTA Prize, Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Butt”) won the SAG Prize, and Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”) won the Golden Globe.
“Sound of Metal” star Riz Ahmed triumphed in the Best Actor category, where he competed against actor Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), who died last year. Ahmed’s costar Paul Raci won in the supporting actor category. That’s a huge win for Raci, a 72-year-old actor who worked as a court interpreter for the deaf for decades before finding his breakthrough role.
“I’ve been a day player here in Hollywood for thirty years,” said Raci in his acceptance speech Tagesjob. I never did. I still have it too! “
The ceremony was held virtually and hosted by comedian Melissa Villaseñor. A full list of winners can be found here.