Could “As Good as it Gets” Oscar winner Helen Hunt have just as much awards success behind the camera as she did in front of the camera? Going from an Academy Award for performing to an Emmy nomination for directing may seem like a unique achievement, but Hunt would actually be the fourth actress to accomplish that feat. And she has three chances: Best Movie/Mini Directing (“Feud: Bette and Joan”), Best Comedy Directing (“Life in Pieces”) and Best Drama Directing (“This is Us”).
Anjelica Huston was the first Oscar winning actress to be nominated for directing TV. She won her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress (“Prizzi’s Honor,” 1985), and then she earned an Emmy nom in 1997 for directing the Showtime movie “Bastard Out of Carolina.” She lost to Andrei Konchalovsky for his work on the NBC miniseries “The Odyssey.”
Kathy Bates won the Best Actress Oscar for “Misery” (1990), and two years after Huston earned her Emmy bid Bates was nominated for directing the A&E biopic “Dash and Lilly.” She lost to Allan Arkush for his work on another NBC miniseries, “The Temptations.”
The most recent woman to accomplish this was Jodie Foster. She won a pair of Best Actress Oscars, for “The Accused” (1988) and “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), and then she earned an Emmy nomination for directing an episode of “Orange Is the New Black” in 2014, when the Netflix series was initially competing in the comedy categories.
Foster’s nomination came at a time when female directors were starting to be recognized on a more consistent basis — especially when you compare them to female directors at the Oscars. Foster lost Best Comedy Directing to Gail Mancuso, who was on her second consecutive win for “Modern Family.” And following Mancuso was Jill Soloway for “Transparent,” who is the reigning champ in the category for the last two years and may three-peat this year with her new Amazon series “I Love Dick.” On the drama side, female directors like Lesli Linka Glatter (“Mad Men” and “Homeland”), Oscar nominee Agnieszka Holland (“Treme”), a pre-“Wonder Woman” Patty Jenkins (“The Killing”) and Michelle MacLaren (“Breaking Bad”) have earned nominations in recent years. And the last two awards for Best Movie/Mini Directing have gone to women: Oscar nominee Lisa Cholodenko for the HBO limited series “Olive Kitteridge” in 2015 and Susanne Bier for AMC’s “The Night Manager” last year.
Hunt has a solid shot at a directing bid since she’s eligible in all three of those categories. For Comedy Directing, she is one of four submitted for the CBS single-cam comedy “Life in Pieces”; she helmed the episode ” Window Vanity Dress Grace.” For Drama Directing she is one of eight directors submitted for the NBC family drama “This Is Us”; her episode is the midseason finale “Last Christmas.” Her strongest entry though may be Movie/Mini Directing with her episode “Abandoned!” from FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan.” The anthology was created by Ryan Murphy, whose “American Crime Story” franchise was a hit at last year’s Emmys with 22 nominations and nine wins, so “Feud” could replicate that successful haul. Three of the nominations for “Crime Story” were in the directing category, so with five directors submitted from “Feud” this year, Hunt could get in alongside Murphy based on her long history of goodwill in the industry and the potential strength of the series.
Hunt already has a storied history at the Emmys. Before Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘s record winning streak for Best Comedy Actress (five in a row from 2012-2016), Hunt was the previous record-holder for consecutive wins for her role in the hit NBC sitcom “Mad About You,” winning four times from 1996-1999. She also has the distinction of being the only woman to direct herself to an Emmy win. She directed the series finale episode, which she submitted for her victory in 1999.
“Mad About You” is where Hunt’s directing career started. She directed four episodes during the last two seasons of the show from 1998-1999. Since then Hunt has gone on to direct shows including “Californication,” “House of Lies,” and “Revenge.” And this past spring she also made her long-awaited return to television acting in FOX’s limited series “Shots Fired,” for which she is in contention for a nomination for Movie/Mini Supporting Actress. Though the Emmys have been better at recognizing female directors than the Oscars have been, there is far from gender parity for women who direct scripted narrative programs. Hunt could increase the representation of female directors single-handedly this year. We recently talked in-depth with Hunt about her projects this year. Watch it below.
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