In an effort to show the awards ceremony is not as whitewashed as it typically is, the directors nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director are Christopher Nolan, Jordan Peele, Greta Gerwig, Paul Thomas Anderson and Guillermo del Toro.

While it is event the academy as at least attempted to embrace a diverse approach to the Best Director award category, it is noticeable the Smurfette Principle remains. For people unfamiliar with the Smurfette Principle, it pertains to an individual representing an entire group.

With four men nominated for the award, there is only one woman. Was Gerwig the only woman to direct a film last year? Did anyone notice if del Toro was the only director of Hispanic descent to helm a production? How about Peele? Was he the only African American in the directorial chair?

Despite the apparent shortcomings, the list of nominees for this year’s award ceremony is at least a tad more diverse than that which has been previously seen.


Nominated for his directorial work on the historical war drama “Dunkirk,” Nolan has proven the genre can be revitalised for a new generation. Set during the Second World War, the film revolves around the evacuation of allied soldiers from Belgium.

With their soldiers surrounded by the German Army, the British and French are left with little option but attempt a risky evacuation of their forces via sea at Dunkirk.

When it comes to Nolan’s directorial work, many people point to his “Dark Knight” trilogy: “Batman Begins” (2005), “The Dark Knight” (2008) and “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) as being the quintessential “Batman” franchise.

Of course, these films were not the first productions Nolan directed.

In 1989, Nolan took to the director’s chair for the television short “Tarantella.” It was not for another seven years that we would see the director back in the chair. In 1996, he directed the short “Larceny.” Nolan’s first film came in 1998 when he helmed the mystery crime thriller “Following.”

Do you remember the mystery thrillers “Memento” or the “Insomnia” (2002)? How about the mystery drama “The Prestige” (2005), the action adventure “Inception” (2010) and the science fiction drama “Interstellar” (2014)?

With a short-list of directorial credits to his name, Nolan seems to prefer quality over quantity.


There is something that can be said for being on the Academy Award’s directorial nominations list when it is your directorial debut. For Peele, best known for co-creating the television series “Obama,” the horror mystery thriller “Get Out” is his directorial debut. Like Nolan with “Dunkirk,” Peele wrote and directed his horror film.

“Get Out” revolves around young African American Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). In this story, Armitage takes Washington to meet for the first time her parents Dean and Missy (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener).

Even though the Armitage’s secluded woodland estate initially seemed to have friendly and polite ambiance, all that disappeared when a nightmarish hell took over.


Gerwig, the only female director in a list of five, was nominated for her work on “Lady Bird.”

With Gerwig having directed the romantic drama “Nights and Weekends” in 2008, “Lady Bird” is the second film where she occupied the directorial chair.

Like Nolan and Peele in respect to their films, Gerwig wrote and directed “Lady Bird.”

With aspirations of being much more than the sum of her parts, set in 2002, “Lady Bird” revolves around the artistically inclined seventeen-year-old Lady Bird McPherson (Saoirse Ronan).


Then there is Anderson. With no less than 37 directorial credits to his name, beginning in 1988 with the biographical short “The Dirk Diggler Story,” Anderson is no newcomer to the director’s chair.

In the coming Academy Awards, Anderson was nominated for his directorial work on “Phantom Thread.” Interestingly, like the previous three directors mentioned, Anderson also penned the screenplay for the film he directed.

Set in 1950’s London, “Phantom Thread” revolves around accomplished dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis). Woodcock, fastidious in his daily affairs, finds his life disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who becomes both his muse and his lover.

With having already won the Best Director awards from the Boston Society of Film Critics Award and the Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award, Anderson has seen his directorial labours bear fruit.

Does Anderson have a chance at winning the directorial Academy Award? Anything is possible.

Even though Anderson did not win the Academy Award for Best Director for his directorial work on the 2007 period drama “There Will Be Blood,” he did pick up directorial awards for this film from the
Austin Film Critics Association, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, the San Diego Film Critics Society Award, the National Society of Film Critics Award, the Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award, the London Critics Circle Film Award and the Berlin International Film Festival.

del Toro

Finally, we arrive at de Toro. With a screenplay co-written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, “The Shape of Water” features a story penned by de Toro. While de Toro was partially responsible for writing the film, it is his directorial work on “The Shape of Water” that concerns us.

Set at a top secret research facility during in the 1950s, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a lonely janitor, forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature, Amphibian Man (Doug Jones), that is being held in captivity.

With directorial credits such as  “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001), “Hellboy” (2004), “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (2008), “Pacific Rim” (2013) and “Crimson Peak” (2015), de Toro has proven himself a competent director.

With him having already picking up the Best Director awards from the Golden Globe Awards, the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards, the Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association and the St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards, de Toro has seen much success come his way.


This year, all the nominated directors wrote or had a hand in writing the screenplay for their respective directed film. Therefore, none of the directors can blame the writing for them not winning the directorial award.

As seen many times, the directorial award is often coupled with the Academy Award for Best Picture. Despite this point, while it is frequently true both awards have gone to the same production, it is not always the case.

Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer with director Guillermo del Toro during the filming of the science fiction fantasy “The Shape of Water” (2017)

The Best Director award is up first out of the two mentioned awards. If one of these productions where to attain the Best Picture award, there is a good chance the director of that film will also garner the directorial award. If “The Shape of Water” is recognised as being Best Picture, not that it shouldn’t, de Toro should pick up the award for Best Director.

There are more films on the Best Picture list than there are represented in the director’s award list. The Best Picture award could easily go to a film where the director has not garnered a nomination specific to the directorial chair. If that is the case, we could see this year’s top two award categories split between two productions.