On Monday, “Nomadland” director Chloe Zhao made history by becoming the first woman of color nominated for best director at the Oscars. At 38, she is also the most nominated woman in a single year in Oscar history, garnering nods for best adapted screenplay, editing and as a producer in the best picture category.
The only woman who has won best director is Kathryn Bigelow, for "The Hurt Locker" in 2010.
She told USA Today that she is taking it in stride: "I think it would mean more to other people than it would to me. I just love telling stories, I really do."
Zhao was born in Beijing and said her earliest memory of an American movie was "Terminator." She said: "My first introduction to Hollywood was that, 'Sister Act' and Ghost.' "
Her biggest influence, though, was her teacher, Spike Lee, whom she studied under at NYU’s Tisch.
"What I like about Spike is that he doesn't really sugarcoat things," Zhao says. "Spike will just tell you as it is and I really needed that. We used to have very heated discussions, where his assistant would come in and say, 'Everything OK?' But (it was) a lot of fun. It was always a great time."
She met her partner there too, the Oscar-nominated "Nomadland" cinematographer Joshua James Richards. They have made four films together, including Marvel’s “Eternals,” out November 5th.
"Eternals" is the first Marvel movie to feature a South Asian superhero (Kumail Nanjiani), a deaf superhero (Lauren Ridloff) and an openly gay superhero (Brian Tyree Henry). Zhao says she didn't set out to break barriers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: "Casting only works when it makes sense for the story. For 'Eternals,' as a story it makes sense that we have a very, very diverse cast … and it's really about the (characters) as individuals."