After every Oscar-nomination morning, pundits scour the list for important milestones and bit of trivia. Sometimes the landmarks or patterns are obvious, like the slate of all-white acting nominees in 2015 and 2016 that drove the #OscarsSoWhite protest and a serious effort to reform the Academy’s voter body. Among this year’s honorees, though, a more unusual (and encouraging) statistic emerged: This is the first time in 90 years that all five Best Director nominees also wrote their movies.
In general, 2017 was a triumphant time for filmmakers, with many of the gaudy awards campaigns focused more on the people behind the camera rather than on the stars in front of it. Greta Gerwig was, in many ways, the star of the fizzy coming-of-age film Lady Bird despite not appearing in a single frame. The same went for Jordan Peele and his dark horror satire Get Out, and certainly for Christopher Nolan and the bombastic epic Dunkirk. The other directing nominees were Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water and Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread, two of the most highly regarded auteurs in recent Hollywood history.
It was Anderson’s nomination, the least predicted of the five, that led to this surprising data point; he likely beat out Steven Spielberg, who did not write The Post (he usually leaves the scripting duties to practiced Hollywood hands). In the past, the Oscars have come close to an “all-auteur” bloc of directors, but only a few times have even four of the nominees also written their own movies. Of the nine nominated Best Pictures, three were not from writer-directors: Call Me By Your Name, The Post and Darkest Hour, the latter two being the most “old-fashioned” choices from the Academy.