Oscar nominee profile: Frances McDormand (‘Nomadland’) could win her third (and fourth)

With “Nomadland,” Frances McDormand reaped her sixth Oscar nomination for acting and her first for producing this Best Picture contender. She is the first woman to pull off this double act. Considering the dominance of “Nomadland” thus far at the precursors, it is possible that McDormand, already a two-time Oscar winner, could walk away with not only her third but fourth Oscar on April 25.

For Best Actress, McDormand faces off against Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”), Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) and Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”). Joining McDormand as returning nominees are Davis, with three previous nominations and a win, and Mulligan, with one earlier bid. These are Day and Kirby’s first dates with Oscar.

McDormand’s two previous Oscar wins were both in Best Actress: “Fargo” (1996) and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017). She lost her three Best Supporting Actress races: “Mississippi Burning” (1988), “Almost Famous” (2000) and “North Country” (2005). Oscar voters clearly love her as a lead, which could give her an advantage for “Nomadland” in a competitive Best Actress race. The film is nominated in six categories including Best Picture, Director, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography and Film Editing.

SEE 2021 Oscar nominations: Full list of nominees in all 23 categories at the 93rd Academy Awards

McDormand is known for playing everyday, working-class women like Marge in “Fargo,” Mildred in “Three Billboards” and her Emmy-winning turn as the eponymous role in “Olive Kitteridge.” While “Nomadland’s” Fern may be similar on the surface, there is much more to her performance than on first glance. The actress delivers a decidedly internal performance in “Nomadland,” portraying the grief of a woman who has lost her husband and seeks comfort in the open road. The old adage of “acting is reacting” strongly applies to McDormand’s layered work in the film, with so much communicated just in her eyes as she listens to the stories of fellow nomads.

It is difficult for actors to win a third Oscar — only six have won more than two. Yet, if voters are compelled by McDormand’s quietly moving turn in “Nomadland,” they could elevate the actress into the company of such three-time Oscar winners as Daniel Day-Lewis, Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. The enormous respect for both McDormand and “Nomadland” might just be a winning combination for her to make history by winning for both acting and producing.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “Oscar nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2021 contenders.

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