Lina Wertmüller, First Woman Nominated for Best Director at Academy Awards, Dies at 93

Quentin Tarantino once said of Wertmüller: "She was the first female director I knew by name."
In this Oct. 24, 2019 photo, Lina Wertmuller poses for a portrait in Los Angeles. Wertmuller was the first-ever woman to be nominated for a best director Oscar for her 1976 classic Seven Beauties and will receive an honorary Oscar for her achievements. (Photo by Mark Von Holden/Invision/AP)
Lina Wertmuller
Mark Von Holden/Invision/AP

Lina Wertmüller, the legendary Italian filmmaker and the first woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, has died at the age of 93. According to Italian press (via Variety), the writer and director died “peacefully at home, next to her daughter and loved ones.” Wertmüller’s career jump-started in 1963 when she directed her feature directorial debut “The Basilisk” and served as an assistant director on Federico Fellini’s “8½.” The director went on to helm acclaimed films such as “Seven Beauties,” “Swept Away,” and “The Seduction of Mimi.” For her work on “Seven Beauties,” she became the first woman Oscar nominee for Best Director. The drama was also Oscar nominated for Best Original Screenplay and earned Wertmüller a nomination at the Directors Guild of America Awards.

Across her career, Wertmüller won Best Director at the Locarno Film Festival (for “The Basilisk”), competed twice for the Palme d’Or at Cannes (“The Seduction of Mimi” and “Love and Anarchy”), and won Best Foreign Film honors from the National Board of Review (“Swept Away”). In 2019, the Academy awarded Wertmüller an Honorary Oscar and gave her star-studded tribute. Fellow Oscar-nominated women directors Greta Gerwig and Jane Campion presented Wertmüller the special Oscar. Gerwig hailed Wertmüller’s films as “the cinema of seduction” and called them “personal, truthful, and idiosyncratic…naughty and playful, earthbound and bawdy.”

“How do you correct centuries of patriarchal domination?” Campion said, addressing Wertmüller. “You are a film warrior, an artist who is brave and brilliant. … ‘Seven Beauties’ is one of the best films of the twentieth century.”

Wertmüller memorably said while accepting the Oscar, “I would like to change the name Oscar to a feminine name — Anna.”

Directors such as Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino also honored Wertmüller during the event. “She was the first female director I knew by name,” said Tarantino, pointing out that Wertmüller was the only woman to direct a spaghetti Western (“The Belle Starr Story”).

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