Oscars 2021: Chloe Zhao, Anthony Hopkins' historic wins, and all the other records that were broken

While a sweep of the acting categories by people of colour did not materialise, there were plenty of other firsts - from directing breakthroughs to honours for ageing winners

The New York Times April 26, 2021 11:34:09 IST
Oscars 2021: Chloe Zhao, Anthony Hopkins' historic wins, and all the other records that were broken

This year’s Academy Award nominees were historically among the event’s more diverse lineups: Seventy women earned nods across 23 categories and nine people of colour were nominated for their acting.

Even before the winners were announced, there were several notable breakthroughs — including best actor nominations for Riz Ahmed, the first Muslim man to be so recognized, and Steven Yeun, the first Asian American actor to be included in the category. And for only the second time in Oscars history, two Black women — Viola Davis and Andra Day — were in the running for best actress.

And while a sweep of the acting categories by people of colour did not materialise, there were plenty of other firsts:

A Korean first: Yuh-Jung Youn is the first Korean actor to win an Oscar. It was the first nomination for the performer, whose turn as the wry grandmother in Minari also earned her SAG and BAFTA awards this season. “Maybe,” she said Sunday in her speech, “it’s American hospitality for the Korean actor.”

Honours for ageing winners: Anthony Hopkins, at 83, became the oldest actor to win the best actor. He won for his performance as a man suffering from dementia in The Father. With Ann Roth’s victory for the costume designs in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, she became the oldest woman to ever win an Oscar. She is 89.

A directing breakthrough: Chloé Zhao, the filmmaker behind Nomadland, is the first woman of colour to win — and to be nominated — for best director. She is just the second woman to win the category, following Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker.

A makeup and hairstyling breakthrough: Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, who worked on Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, are the first Black women to win this award (and to be nominated for it). “I know that one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking,” Neal said in her acceptance speech. “It will just be normal.”

And finally, a losing streak: Glenn Close, nominated for supporting actress for Hillbilly Elegy, hit a less exciting milestone: After eight fruitless nods, she has tied the record held by Peter O’Toole for most acting nominations without a win.

Nancy Coleman c.2021 The New York Times Company

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