While it was widely expected for “Nomadland” to win Best Picture at the Oscars Sunday night, one piece of the film’s win did come as a major surprise — when exactly during the show the top Oscar was handed out. The 2021 ceremony marked the first time in nearly five decades that Best Picture was not presented at the very end of the ceremony.
Sunday’s statuette shuffle surprised even the “Nomadland” filmmakers, producer Dan Janvey told reporters in the virtual backstage press area. “It surely was a surprise. I think a lot of us grew up watching the Oscars and have gotten used to that being last. It was incredibly fun that they shook it up,” he said.
Best Picture was the antepenultimate award handed out Sunday. It was followed by the top top acting prizes, Best Actress and Best Actor. The last time the Best Picture Oscar was not handed out in the final moments of the ceremony was in 1972. That year, the show ended with a lengthy tribute to Charlie Chaplin, culminating in the silent icon winning an Honorary Award after having been exiled from the U.S. for 20 years. The tribute included an 11-minute montage of Chaplin’s greatest movie moments that was edited together by Peter Bogdanovich.
The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony marked a major break from tradition in response to the pandemic. Downtown Los Angeles’ Union Station was the event’s main locale, rather than the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The show’s producers, led by Steven Soderbergh, aimed for a show that felt more cinematic and served as a love-letter to moviegoing. The result was a fully in-person show that upended audience expectations while still following the kinds of pandemic protocols followed on movie sets.
“I think the producers did a great job making this possible for us to be in person,” Janvey said. “As producers, it’s hard for us to imagine what went into the making of this show. So very appreciative of that.”
In addition to Janvey, the “Nomadland” Best Picture Oscar went to producers Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, and producer-writer-director-editor Chloé Zhao. It’s only the second-ever female-directed film to do so. The film took home two other Oscars, both of them historic wins: Zhao won Best Director (only the second woman to ever win the prize) and McDormand won Best Actress (she has won the prize more times than anyone else, besides Katharine Hepburn). It was nominated for three others: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography (Joshua James Richards), and Best Film Editing.