American actress Frances McDormand is one of the most celebrated artists of her time, known for her masterful performances in cult classics like Fargo as well as modern masterpieces including Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland. With a stellar portfolio and an increasing list of the world’s most coveted accolades to her name, there is no doubt that McDormand is one of the most sought after actresses in the world today.
Over the course of her illustrious career, she has worked with many important filmmakers. Ranging from Robert Altman and the Coen brothers to Martin McDonagh as well as Wes Anderson, McDormand’s experience is truly impressive. It might be easy to dismiss McDormand’s expertise as a result of her work experience but she knew what she wanted right from the start.
McDormand made her fantastic film debut in the directorial debut of the Coen brothers — 1984 neo-noir gem Blood Simple. While working with the extremely talented duo whose genius was evident even back then, the actress realised what it means to work with filmmakers who have a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve.
“Even if I never see them [storyboards], to know that a director is thinking about how it’s going to be edited, that’s what I learned from Joel and Ethan,” McDormand explained. “Then I know what I’m serving. I do not believe that it’s an actor’s medium nor a director’s medium, I believe it’s an editor’s medium, so as an actor if I’m serving the final edit of a film, which is what I believe storyboards prepare you for, then I know the person knows what they’re doing.”
She also commented on the irrelevance of the filmmaker’s social skills, claiming that it is far more important for the director to focus on the final output: “If someone comes to me and says, ‘This director is really great with actors,’ I don’t care. Because I know how to do my job, I don’t want them to help me do my job. Do they know how to edit the film? Okay, great, I’d love to work with them.”
This essential criterion for selecting filmmakers was something that McDormand still abides by, as is clear from her extremely successful collaboration with Chloé Zhao on Nomadland.
For her brilliant performance as a wandering widow who embarks on a journey across the country, McDormand won her third Academy Award for Best Actress.