What Frances McDormand Would (and Wouldn’t) Give to ‘Nomadland’


“That was the catch,” said McDormand. “It was the power to be a really shy, slightly suspicious seventh grader who could stand in front of a group of people and keep their attention.” She also loved that Shakespeare’s female characters were just as greedy for power as the men: “It’s like I’ve always told Joel, ‘Why don’t you guys write better roles for women? Why don’t you just write a role for men and then let me play it? ‘“

She had married Coen not long after making her film debut in the 1984 noir “Blood Simple,” which he directed with Ethan. Twelve years later, the Coen McDormand brothers gave their signature role that only a woman could play: Marge, the chirping, pregnant police chief in “Fargo”.

This film made her famous, a condition McDormand believed was a fire: after hiring a publicist, she almost immediately directed him to decline most requests.

“I made a very conscious effort not to do the press and publicity for 10 years, which other people would consider a very dangerous moment in an actress’ career, but it paid off for exactly the reasons I wanted,” said they . “It made me wonder who I was, and then in the roles I was playing I was able to take an audience to a place where someone selling watches or perfumes and magazines couldn’t.”

For them, “Nomadland” is the culmination of these efforts to keep themselves untouched in public. “That’s why it works,” she said. “That’s why Chloé could bear to even think about doing this with me, because for years I created something not only as an actor, but also in my private life.”

We were walking back through town and as we were walking up a hill covered in vegetation and eucalyptus trees, McDormand drew one last line, “So I’ll come by my house and then I’ll leave you,” she said. She asked me if I had dinner plans and directed me to a yard stall I could stop by on the way home. “They have beautiful little gems and good ol ‘rocket,” she said, “but no eggs right now because the chickens are all cold.”



Robert Dunfee