Director Chloe Zhao Wins a Gotham Award for Nomadland
On Monday night at the Gotham Film and Media Institute's annual Gotham Awards in New York, Chloe Zhao won Best Feature and the Gotham Audience Award for directing Nomadland—a criticially-acclaimed film which is tipped for Oscar nominations this year, and could make Zhao the first Asian woman ever nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards. Based on Jessica Bruder's 2017 book, Nomadland was released in September and follows the journey of Fern, played by Frances McDormand, as she drives through the southwestern United States working odd jobs and seasonal employment.
Previously Zhao directed two feature-length films, 2015's Songs My Brother Taught Me, and The Rider in 2017—which premiered that year at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Art Cinema Award.
With awards season just around the corner and Oscar nominations imminent on March 15, here are a few vital things to know about Chloe Zhao.
She's driven by her curiosity and interest in people
Upon winning the inaugural Bonnie Award at the 2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards, Zhao said: "It's always curiosity at first that leads me to places and to people—and then a connection with them. We're making films about people who live close to the land, and we're making films close to the land as well. This landscape humbles them; you don't feel like you're above this land; you respect this land. You know what it's like to be scarred and you know what it's like to touch an animal that you love. And these images, everyone can understand that, these images are universal."
Zhao directed the new Marvel movie, Eternals
Scheduled for release this November, Eternals is the next big Marvel franchise, and stars actors including Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, and Kit Harington.
Zhao was born in Beijing and educated in the UK and the United States
Born in Beijing, Zhao told Vogue in 2018 that her parents sent her to "one of those Hogwarts boarding schools" in the UK. She later studied political science at Mount Holyoke in the United States before attending film school at New York University. Zhao says one of her earliest film obsessions is Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together, and that she rewatches it before she begins any new movie project.
She has the reputation for being authentic and down-to-earth
Breaking with Hollywood stereotypes and in spite of her success, Zhao has a reputation in the film industry for being surprisingly unfussy and down-to-Earth. "I haven't been to a hair salon in five years," she told Vanity Fair late last year. "I'm a true believer that you have to work with people who are on the same page with you, not only about the film, but about how to be in the world. Otherwise the drama is just going to be endless. Fran [Frances McDormand] and I spent a lot of time getting to know each other, and we do have a lot in common."
Her earliest pop culture influences came from Japanese manga
"I grew up with manga," she said in a conversation with Moonlight director and Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins. "I have to just say, we didn’t have movies when I was growing up, not the same way that you guys had access to films, but I did have just cabinets and cabinets of Japanese manga. I just devoured them. That was my first love. I wanted to be a manga artist, but I was not very good at drawing. I have been a fan of the MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe] for the last decade. So, I put the word out there I wanted to make a Marvel movie and the right project came to me."