Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) and Jordan Peele (“Get Out”) joined an elite group of filmmakers who received Oscar nominations for writing, directing and producing the same film. In the academy’s 90-year history, only 26 other people pulled off this hat trick. Peele is the first black filmmaker to do so, while del Toro is only the second Latin American after his filmmaking amigo Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
Now del Toro and Peele are hoping to join the even more exclusive club of seven filmmakers who won all three prizes in one night. Considering they’re in direct competition with each other for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay (where del Toro competes alongside co-writer Vanessa Taylor), it’ll be an especially tricky feat to pull off.
Leo McCarey was the first person to win the big three for “Going My Way” (1944), a lighthearted comedy starring Bing Crosby as a young priest as likely to break into song as quote the Bible. Although the Best Picture statuette technically went to Paramount Pictures (it was the custom for this prize to be awarded to the studios until 1950), McCarey was the film’s credited producer, so we’ll count it. McCarey is also the only person to snag the trifecta with a writing victory in the now-defunct Best Original Story category (the film also won Best Screenplay for Frank Butler and Frank Cavett).
One of the people McCarey beat out that year was Billy Wilder, who lost Best Director and Best Screenplay for “Double Indemnity” (1944). Wilder’s film, in fact, went zero for seven at the ceremony, but 16 years later Wilder followed in his rival’s footsteps with Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay (shared with I.A.L. Diamond) victories of his own for “The Apartment” (1960), a bittersweet comedy about a lonely man (Jack Lemmon) who finds love when he allows his bosses to cheat on their wives in his apartment.
Another 14 years passed before a triple-threat won big at the Oscars again. Francis Ford Coppola, who lost Best Director for “The Godfather” in 1972 to Bob Fosse (“Cabaret”), came roaring back with that film’s highly successful sequel, “The Godfather, Part II” (1974). In addition to his Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay (shared with Mario Puzo) victories for the “Godfather” sequel, he also contended in Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for another film he made that year, “The Conversation.” Not bad for a year’s work.
The next filmmaker to hit the Oscar jackpot was James L. Brooks for “Terms of Endearment” (1983). After co-creating the TV classics “Taxi” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” Brooks transitioned to the big screen with this adaptation of Larry McMurtry‘s novel about a contentious mother-daughter relationship. Not only was he the first person to achieve all three victories for his debut film (a feat Peele could repeat), he was the first to do so without any collaborators.
It was two decades before another director cleaned up in the top categories. After walking away empty-handed for the first two “Lord of the Rings” installments in 2001 and 2002, Peter Jackson finally cashed in his Oscar I.O.U. for the concluding chapter, “The Return of the King” (2003). That fantasy epic based on J.R.R. Tolkien‘s classic book series had a historic sweep, winning all 11 of its bids including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay (shared with Jackson’s wife, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens). Those victories tied it with “Ben-Hur” (1959) and “Titanic” (1997) as the all-time biggest Academy Awards champ.
It was a mere four years later that Joel and Ethan Coen became the first filmmaking duo to win the writing, directing and producing categories for “No Country for Old Men” (2007). An adaptation of Cormac McCarthy‘s philosophical novel about Texas bloodshed, the film is also known for Javier Bardem‘s Oscar-winning performance as a merciless killer with a deadly haircut.
Seven years after that, Inarritu became the seventh and so far final person to reap the top three Oscars for “Birdman” (2014), a boisterous comedy about the superhero lurking inside a washed-up actor trying to stage a career comeback on Broadway. Inarritu’s wins for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay (shared with Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo) were especially fitting since his film’s main character was also a triple threat, ambitiously writing, directing and starring in his own production.
Will either del Toro or Peele join this elite group of seven? Obviously they can’t both do it unless they manage to improbably tie in all three categories. The odds are in del Toro’s favor: he currently leads the Best Picture and Best Director fields with first-place odds of 9/10 and 1/10, respectively. Peele trails in fourth place in both categories with odds of 16/1 for Best Picture and 50/1 for Best Director.
Best Original Screenplay is a little trickier for both of them. As of now both “Get Out” and “The Shape of Water” are behind for their writing. Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird“) is the current front-runner with 3/2 odds, and Golden Globe-winner Martin McDonagh (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) ranks second with 23/10 odds. Peele’s script ranks third with 10/3 odds, while del Toro and Taylor’s “Shape of Water” screenplay places fourth with 22/1 odds.
But depending on how things shift between now and March 4, we could very well see one smiling face three times on Oscar night, and it’ll be a big smile indeed.
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