Last year, Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland emerged as one of the finest cinematic productions during one of the most difficult periods in recent history. The brilliant neo-western starred Frances McDormand as a wanderer who drifts across the vast landscapes of America after the death of her husband, deciding that she is going to live in a van instead of continuing to be a part of the monotony of normal society.
“First, I felt it was incredibly important for the van-dwellers to have a voice in the film,” Zhao said. “Jessica had done an incredible job in her book of documenting these really colourful characters with interesting life experiences and also the worlds they exist in. It’s hard to recreate that kind of thing, as I learned from making my first two films, so using real people and places was always something we were going to do.”
Zhao also commented on the need to make the audience understand the spirit of the film: “Second, I asked myself, ‘How will a film like this catch the attention of people today?’ I was quite pragmatic about it. The idea of having a character, Fern, whose emotional arc would be something the audience could track throughout the film – and also having her be a listener and a guide to this world – was very important to me.”
Melissa Yandell Smith, the actress who played the part of Frances McDormand’s sister in Nomadland, recently passed away at the age of 64. After a difficult battle with colon cancer, she finally succumbed to it on September 7. According to multiple sources, she died in her own San Francisco home and was surrounded by friends and family during her final moments.
After her passing, McDormand released a statement about her “best friend” Smith in which she explained the extent of their relationship as well as her intense affection for the late actress: “We had a 42-year friendship that incorporated our ambitions, our dreams, our successes and our failures. I am as proud of that deep friendship as I am of my 38-year marriage and being a mother to my adored son.”
Melissa Yandell Smith is survived by her husband – actor Warren David Keith and her son – Owen. As a celebration of the actress’ life and contribution to her field, the ACT has announced that it will plan an event dedicated to Smith.