The tradition of featuring the Academy Award winner for Best Director on Variety‘s post-Oscars cover continues with “Nomadland”‘s Chloe Zhao. On the morning after her historic award win that saw her become only the second woman to win the directing honour and the first woman of colour to do so, Zhao tells Variety all about the honour and “Nomadland”‘s Best Picture win.
“It was just so, so beautiful to be in the room with people, and to be able to actually talk to them and to celebrate with my peers,” she says of the in-person event, which was held under rigorous testing and safety protocols.
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“I have gone through ups and downs in my relatively short career,” she says, “and one thing I’ve learned is a bit of a cliché, but everything does happen for a reason. We never expected ‘Nomadland’ to resonate the way it did. But everything worked out.”
Accepting her award, the Chinese filmmaker quoted a saying from the Chinese text “Three Character Classic” because it was “a sentiment that was very important to me, had an impact on me when I was a kid, and I carry that with me.”
“I thought, if I was fortunate enough to win, I wanted to think about where it all started,” she says of the speech she wrote “at 2 in the morning in my room alone.”
One thing that also got attention was Zhao’s choice of footwear — sneakers. It’s a fashion move that was also echoed by fellow Best Director nominee pregnant Emerald Fennell who took home the Best Original Screenplay award for “Promising Young Woman”.
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“I think there’s a picture somewhere out there of the two of us with our sneakers together,” she says. But it’s “Nomadland” star and three-time Best Actress winner Frances McDormand who gets the style credit.
“I take a lot of inspiration from Frances McDormand, and I learned a lot from her through this journey,” she explains. “It’s a long night, a lot of walking — and I don’t have the courage to be in heels.”
However, it’s not just footwear that Zhao and McDormand have bonded over.
“I think we have a lot in common, Fran and I,” she says. “We both like comfortable footwear, and also really like to work. Not a lot of words, more like a lot of doing. And through that process, I just learned so much from her. As a mentor, as a person — how she carries herself in the industry.”