With the losses Sunday night for Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”) and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (“1917”) in Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay, respectively, the 2010s now carries a dubious badge in Oscar history: It’s the first decade since the 1960s without a female writing winner.
Gerwig fell to Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”), while Wilson-Cairns and co-writer Sam Mendes were bested by “Parasite’s” Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won — two historic victories in their own right, as Waititi is the first indigenous writer to win, and Bong and Han are the first Asian writing champs.
The last woman to win in either category, solo or as a co-writer, was Diablo Cody 12 years ago for 2007’s “Juno” in original. The adapted category has a longer drought at 14 years, with Diana Ossana, who co-wrote “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) with Larry McMurtry, being the most recent. Since Cody’s victory, 14 women have received bids in original, including Wilson-Cairns and Gerwig two years ago for “Lady Bird” (2017), and 14 women have been shortlisted in adapted since Ossana’s triumph, including Gerwig this year.
Though women have won writing Oscars since the 1930s, like with many non-gendered categories, there’s not a large total altogether. Only seven times has the adapted honor gone to women, including Ruth Prawer Jhabvala prevailing twice for “A Room with a View” (1986) and “Howards End” (1992), and Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens sharing a victory with Peter Jackson for “The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King” (2003). The first woman to win in adapted was Sarah Y. Mason for the script to the 1933 version of “Little Women,” shared with her husband Victor Heerman. Counting the now-defunct Best Story and Best Writing categories, there have been 12 instances of the original prize going to women, with Frances Marion being the first for 1930’s “Big House.”
The current 12- and 14-year droughts are the second longest in both categories; there was a 42-year gap between Claudine West‘s win for “Mrs. Miniver (1942) — shared with George Froeschel, James Hilton and Arthur Wimperis — and Jhabvala’s first Oscar for “A Room with a View” in adapted, and 23 years in original between Sonya Levien‘s triumph for “Interrupted Melody” (1955), shared with William Ludwig, and Nancy Dowd‘s for “Coming Home” (1978), shared with Robert C. Jones and Waldo Salt.
While Wilson-Cairns and Mendes were never expected to win original screenplay — it was in fifth place in our odds — Gerwig was the favorite in adapted for a stretch before Waititi bagged the Writers Guild of America Award and BAFTA last weekend.