Frances McDormand is an actress that has made a career out of going her own way. She has a passionate fan base and has cultivated a successful acting career of nearly four decades. One of the most talented leading ladies in Hollywood, Frances McDormand movies include Fargo, Three Billboards and the 2021 Academy Award Best Picture winner Nomadland.
While Frances McDormand’s characters are all so vastly different, she has a talent for making them her own and entices you to keep watching. She is a three-time Oscar winner and seven-time Academy Award nomineeand her success in Hollywood knows no bounds. So who is Frances McDormand and how did she reach such abundant success?
Who exactly is Frances McDormand?
Frances McDormand was born Cynthia Ann Smith in Chicago in 1957. She was one of three adopted children, and throughout her childhood she moved from one small town to the next, traveling through Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. She received a master’s degree from Yale School of Drama and began an onstage career shortly after graduating. Here is where she met her good friend Holly Hunter, and they lived together as their careers began to take off.
Frances McDormand’s earliest on-screen performance was in the Coen Brothers directorial debut Blood Simple. It was at the audition where Frances McDormand met her now-husband, Joel Coen. She auditioned for the character Abby and initially said “no” to the role, which made the Coen Brothers even more eager to have her in the film. She eventually agreed and went on to act in Coen Brothers films like Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Fargo, and Burn After Reading.
Frances McDormand, who mostly lives a private life off-screen, spoke with the New York Times about her relationship with Joel Coen, saying “It was a revelation that I could have a lover who I could also work with and I wasn’t intimidated by the person.”
The two have 38 years of marriage under their belt, building a family and working together on some pretty incredible films. There is no doubt that every movie that the Coen Brothers and Frances McDormand touch becomes an instant classic.
It is a known fact that Frances McDormand’s movies and TV shows are ALWAYS amazing, and these roles prove that she is the G.O.A.T.
Frances McDormand Movies: Blood Simple
Blood Simple was the first Coen Brothers film and the first on-screen performance by Frances
McDormand. She plays Abby, the wife of Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya), in a neo-noir crime drama following a Texas bartender navigating his way through a murder plot after he is found having an affair.
Blood Simple is deemed a noir masterpiece, balancing crime, violence, and humor so perfectly.
— Criterion Channel (@criterionchannl) April 23, 2021
This film put Frances McDormand on the map in Hollywood and solidified her stance as an actress who holds her own.
— Judy Cohen (@IKnewThemWell) September 26, 2020
Watch the Coen Brothers’ debut film and Frances McDormand’s first movie on HBO Max.
Frances McDormand Movies: Mississippi Burning
Voted one of the top films of 1988, Mississippi Burning has received praise for its writing, editing, sound, and cinematography. The film is a historical crime thriller following a 1964 investigation on three missing civil rights activists.
This film was an early career highlight for Frances McDormand, who plays Mrs. Pell, a local hairdresser and abused wife of a Deputy Sheriff, Clinton Pell (Brad Dourif). Frances McDormand’s performance is poignant and she stands her own moral ground in the film. Her character’s monologue demonstrates this sentiment, “Hatred isn’t something you’re born with. It gets taught.”
Frances McDormand and Brad Dourif make a weirdly believable on-screen couple tangled in conspiracy.
Mississippi Burning (1988) dir. Alan Parker
Hidden Agenda (1990) dir. Ken Loach pic.twitter.com/tCrj5aYvFn
— Martin Kessler (@MovieKessler) June 18, 2018
The Alan Parker Oscars
Best Picture: Angel Heart
Best Actor: Mickey Rourke (Angel Heart)
Best Actress: Emily Watson (Angela’s Ashes)
Best Supporting Actor: John Hurt (Midnight Express)
Best Supporting Actress: Frances McDormand (Mississippi Burning)#RIPAlanParker pic.twitter.com/PosLJ8Dyxq
— Stephen Gibbons (@Gibboanxious) August 1, 2020
Watch Mississippi Burning on Amazon with Cinemax.
Frances McDormand Movies: Almost Famous
The film Almost Famous serves as a sweet slice of nostalgia, and the fact that Frances McDormand is in it makes it that much sweeter.
She plays Elaine Miller, the mother of a young journalist touring with a rock band. Her character is utterly uncool in almost every way and gives off the ultimate overprotective mom energy. Her son William (Patrick Fugit), gets an opportunity to write with Rolling Stone and Elaine simply can’t handle it. Although Frances McDormand’s part was small, she owned every scene she was in, especially her phone conversation with rockstar Russel Hammond where she says, “It’s not too late for you to become a person of substance, Russell.”
Happy birthday to Frances McDormand #BOTD in Almost Famous (2000) dir. Cameron Crowe. McDormand portrays the concerned college-professor mother who is simultaneously hard-nosed, forthright and loving. pic.twitter.com/1g9Cjk0jAt
— Rose Marie (@rosiemarie10395) June 23, 2020
I especially resonate with Frances McDormand’s character because she reminds me of my mother: strict, overprotective, scary at times, but extremely loving. Frances McDormand received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her role as Elaine Miller and she will forever be our favorite on-screen mom.
Frances McDormand. Elaine Miller. Greatest movie Mom ever? #AlmostFamous
— Prashanth (@wothadei) July 12, 2012
— Cameron Crowe (@CameronCrowe) September 17, 2015
Watch Frances McDormand in Almost Famous on Apple TV.
Frances McDormand Movies: Burn After Reading
In every Coen Brothers movie, Frances McDormand truly gives her all to the character, especially in Burn After Reading. Frances McDormand plays an aging, dopey gym caretaker alongside Brad Pitt and they both stumble upon classified information from the CIA.
This leads to them accidentally becoming involved in a web of conspiracies with analyst Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) and Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney). Frances McDormand had fun with the performance and showed she was able to play a loose and funny character.
Remember Frances McDormand’s character in Burn After Reading? Self absorbed, lonely, gym worker fumbling selling secrets. We’re living in a Coen Brothers film. pic.twitter.com/ZG4ZGDTjZJ
— The Honorable Mia Nill (@Mianaught) February 4, 2021
For all the Real Housewives of New York stans out there, this Twitter user has a point.
This is for a very small audience but in Burn After Reading Frances McDormand basically plays Ramona Singer. pic.twitter.com/49Au69uRrv
— Emily Higgins (@emhig) August 26, 2017
Watch the Coen Brothers classic Burn After Reading with Frances McDormand on Amazon Prime.
Frances McDormand Movies: Fargo
Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson in Fargo is easily one of the best acting performances ever. Period. The role won Frances McDormand an Oscar for Best Actress, proving once again that she and the Coen Brothers can do no wrong. Marge Gunderson is not your average hero, as a heavily pregnant mild-mannered police officer who goes on a goose chase for Gaear Grimsgurd (Peter Stormare) and Jerry Lundergaard (William H. Macy), she simply steals the show. In a film filled with criminals, Marge Gunderson serves as the heart and moral compass of the film, and she never steers from what she believes is right. Good old Margie defies all stereotypes of the typical cop, and that’s why we love her.
In a heartwarming scene, she is driving with Gaear Grimsgurd and gives him some food for thought––one of the many life lessons in this Frances McDormand movie.
“There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’t you know that?”
This final scene will forever stand out in cinema as a somber and heartbreaking moment, and this is all thanks to Frances McDormand’s performance.
There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it. – Marge Gunderson #STTEQOTD Quote of the day #Fargo pic.twitter.com/ZX9aqZhl6F
— Skip To The End (@sttepodcast) January 18, 2018
Joel and Ethan Coen with Frances McDormand on the set of “Fargo” (1996). pic.twitter.com/Pbf3ketgRu
— Juan Ferrer (@JuanFerrerVila) September 21, 2018
Watch the Coen Brothers and Frances McDormand classic Fargo with Showtime on Hulu.
Frances McDormand TV Shows: Olive Kitteridge
In 2015, the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge practically swept the Emmys with a total of 13 nominations and 6 wins. The miniseries was a passion project for Frances McDormand, who produced and acted as the lead. Olive Kitteridge was adapted from Elizabeth Stout’s novel which spans over 25 years.
Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, and Richard Jenkins star in this four-part series about a small town in Maine riddled with tragedy and crime. Indiewire describes Frances McDormand’s performance saying “she achieves such a perfect, uncompromised synthesis with the title character that it’s difficult to imagine anyone else ever answering to the name.”
That’s pretty much how we feel about every Frances McDormand character.
Olive Kitteridge :
Frances McDormand have literally breathed life into central character Olive Kitteridge, using sense of humor as a way of life, Giving a message “Just hang in there, it will be fine. After all, Living demands Courage.”
On HotStar. pic.twitter.com/Nq3sCwbMoq
— Vishal Thakkar (@vishalthkkr) September 7, 2020
Twitter even drew connections to Taylor Swift’s album, Evermore.
Frances McDormand en Olive Kitteridge (2014) / Taylor Swift en Evermore (2020) pic.twitter.com/XFqE0UlI1R
— Gus 🦕 (@thebelovedcars) April 23, 2021
Watch Frances McDormand in Olive Kitteridge on HBO Max on Amazon Prime.
Frances McDormand Movies: Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri
If you thought Frances McDormand killed it in Fargo, you need to see Three Billboards, because it is clear that she gave every part of herself to the character of Mildred Hayes. Frances McDormand plays a grieving mother who uses billboards to push local law enforcement to investigate the mystery of her daughter’s murder. You can quite literally feel her character’s desperation for justice through the screen and her depiction of grief is raw and fearsome.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – Martin McDonagh, 2017
w/ Frances McDormand
#Grieving the rape & murder of her daughter, Mildred plants pretty red #flowers along the roadside by her billboards.
— Judy Cohen (@IKnewThemWell) March 12, 2020
21 years after winning an Oscar for Fargo, Frances McDormand won Best Actress for her role in Three Billboards. Like the absolute badass she is, Frances McDormand used her Oscar acceptance speech to push for more diversity in the film industry, saying “Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed.” She continued, “Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple days, or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best, and we’ll tell you all about them.”
Twitter was all about the speech and had nothing but support for Frances McDormand’s Oscar win.
the best comment on the video of frances mcdormand’s oscar speech pic.twitter.com/QcH2pPBRvn
— Ally (@mariskahcrgitoy) March 6, 2018
What a genius idea…actors who support #Diversity can make change happen (would be great to make this part of ALL movies)…Woman behind ‘inclusion rider’ explains Frances McDormand’s Oscar speechhttps://t.co/up5ftkfG8I
— Vick Bain (@vickbain) March 5, 2018
Whenever unscheduled sad boi hours sneak up on me I just rewatch Frances McDormand’s 2018 Oscar speech to hold me over until appropriate sad boi hours begin.
— katie (@K_rodd23) January 7, 2019
Finally watched Three Billboards and wow. Also still thinking about Frances McDormand’s Oscar speech tbh.
— Kelsey Padgett (@K_Padgett1) November 11, 2018
Buy or rent Three Billboards on Amazon Prime.
Frances McDormand Movies: Nomadland
Frances McDormand is an actor who strives to bring authenticity and emotional truth to every character, and Nomadland allowed her to do exactly that. Directed by the incomparable Best Director Chloé Zhao, the movie follows a woman traveling across the country as a nomad, living on the edge of American society.
The award-winning movie is gentle and challenges every stereotype about filmmaking, exploring the journey of a road less traveled in a way that makes the whole film feel like a poem. Frances McDormand plays Fern, a woman who leaves her life behind to travel with transient workers. Her character is subtle yet profound and it feels as if we are seeing the world through Frances McDormand’s performance.
It is clear that Frances McDormand drew inspiration for Nomadland from her own personal life, which she prefers to keep quiet. In an interview with Variety, the actress revealed that she told her husband, filmmaker Joel Coen, that she wanted to become nomadic in her sixties, saying she was going to “start smoking Lucky Strikes, drinking Wild Turkey and I’d hit the road in my RV.” So in a way, this dream came true with Nomadland.
Nomadland won Best Picture at the 2021 Academy Awards, and Frances McDormand won for Best Actress.
“Please watch our movie on the largest screen possible,” Frances McDormand said in her acceptance speech for the Best Picture win. “And one day very, very soon, take everyone you know into a theater, shoulder to shoulder in that dark space and watch every film that’s represented here tonight.”
Here’s to that!
Watch Frances McDormand in Nomadland on Hulu.
When you watch movies with Frances McDormand, you know that it’s going to be a whole experience. France McDormand most likely wouldn’t deem herself a “celebrity,” once telling a New York Times journalist, “I don’t want to be the event in someone’s day.”
As much as Frances McDormand shys away from the “fame” aspect of Hollywood, we simply can’t get enough of her. She is more popular now than ever before and we can’t wait to see what’s next for the actress. It really is Frances McDormand’s world and we’re all just living in it.
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