‘Three Billboards’ would be first to win Best Picture, two acting and writing Oscars without a directing nomination

With Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor signed, sealed and almost delivered to Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, and Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture very real possibilities, “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri” is positioned to do something at the Oscars that hasn’t been done before: win two acting awards, a screenplay award and Best Picture without a directing nomination.

That kind of above-the-line dominance usually comes with a corresponding nomination for Best Director, which historically has been linked with Best Picture. “Elmer Gantry” (1960) nearly pulled this off with wins for Best Actor Burt Lancaster, Best Supporting Actress Shirley Jones and Best Adapted Screenplay for writer-director Richard Brooks. But like “Three Billboards” writer-director Martin McDonagh, Brooks received Golden Globe and Directors Guild Awards nominations before getting snubbed by Oscar. Nominated for five Oscars, “Elmer Gantry” lost Best Picture to “The Apartment” and Best Original Score to “Exodus.”

SEE Best Supporting Actor predictions: Which nominee could beat Sam Rockwell (‘Three Billboards’) at the Oscars? [POLL]

“Elmer Gantry” is one of eight films to have won multiple acting statuettes and a writing award without winning Best Picture, but the other seven were all up for Best Director: “Network” (1976), “Julia” (1977), “Coming Home” (1978), “On Golden Pond” (1981), “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986), “Moonstruck” (1987) and “The Piano” (1993). “Network,” which lost Best Picture to “Rocky,” is the only one of these to have won three acting awards.

Twelve films have won the main prize with two acting trophies and a writing win. All of them, obviously, had directing nominations and 11 of them took home Best Director except for the most recent one, “Shakespeare in Love.”

1. “It Happened One Night” (1934)
2. “Gone with the Wind” (1939)
3. “Mrs. Miniver (1942)
4. “Going My Way” (1944)
5. “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946)
6. “From Here to Eternity” (1953)
7. “On the Waterfront” (1954)
8. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)
9. “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979)
10. “Terms of Endearment” (1983)
11. “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
12. “Shakespeare in Love” (1998)

With picture-director splits more common these days — and, like “Argo” (2012), in this case it’d be forced — it’s not impossible for “Three Billboards” to accomplish this feat. It’s currently second in our combined odds in Best Original Screenplay behind “Get Out” — by the narrowest of margins — and Best Picture behind “The Shape of Water.”

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