Frances McDormand: ‘I made a conscious effort not to do press & publicity for 10 years’

New York premiere of 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'
Frances McDormand has a new profile in the NY Times, conducted from the mysterious town where she lives in California with her husband of 36 years, Joel Coen. Joel and Frances have a son, Pedro, who is 26, and works in fashion in New York. I haven’t known much about her apart from her roles and that’s very deliberate. Frances told the Times’ Kyle Buchanan that she stepped away from the spotlight for ten years so that she can be believable in her roles, essentially. As Kaiser wrote back in January, Frances is considered one of the frontrunners for Best Actress, for her work in Nomadland. While I think she might win a Golden Globe for that on Sunday, Viola Davis may give her a run for her money at the Oscars. Frances has two Best Actress Oscars, for Fargo and Three Billboards, and she’s been nominated for Best Supporting Actress three times. Here’s some of what she told The Times, and you can read the full piece here.

She had married Coen not long after making her screen debut in the 1984 noir “Blood Simple,” which he directed with Ethan. Twelve years later, the Coen brothers would give McDormand her signature role, one that could only be played by a woman: Marge, the chirpy, pregnant police chief in “Fargo.”

That film made her famous, a condition that McDormand considered a fire to be stomped out: After hiring a publicist, she almost immediately instructed him to turn down most requests.

“I made a very conscious effort not to do press and publicity for 10 years in what other people would think would be a very dangerous moment in a female actor’s career, but it paid off for exactly the reasons I wanted it to,” she said. “It gave me a mystery back to who I was, and then in the roles I performed, I could take an audience to a place where someone who sold watches or perfume and magazines couldn’t.”

To her, “Nomadland” is the culmination of that effort to keep herself unspoiled in the public eye. “That’s why it works,” she said. “That’s why Chloé could bear to even think of doing this with me, because of what I’ve created for years not just as an actor, but in my personal life.”

[From The NY Times]

I didn’t know that Frances was doing that at the time, but it makes sense. She made prestige films where she convincingly played gritty characters and when she wasn’t working we didn’t see her. She’s captivating in Nomadland, which is sad and depressing but I couldn’t stop watching it. The filmmaker, Chloé Zhao, spent time in the traveling retirement community shown in the film. Supporting characters like Swankie, Linda May and Bob Wells, the YouTube personality who promotes van living as a retirement strategy, are all real people living that lifestyle. That’s why the film has the feel of a documentary. The movie is based on the book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. I’ve read criticism that movie glosses over how dangerous and debilitating traveling gig jobs can be. It would have been a much different story if we would have seen Frances’ character, Fern, struggling with injuries and illness along with trying to come to terms with her past. It was rich in emotion and nostalgia while feeling pure and real. Frances is excellent at playing those type of characters who seem both vulnerable and incredibly resilient at the same time. Maybe she’s right that if she was in Nespresso commercials we wouldn’t feel the same way about her.

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42nd Toronto International Film Festival - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Photocall

Frances McDormand

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27 Responses to “Frances McDormand: ‘I made a conscious effort not to do press & publicity for 10 years’”

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  1. Sandra says:

    I would love to hang out with Frances McDormand. She’s so quirky and interesting and doesn’t strike me as one of those actors that always needs the attention in the room. Not just in terms of doing press or being in the tabloids, but she has no air of “do you know who I AM?” or “LOOK AT ME!”
    She has a Tilda Swinton vibe in that she’s low-key with her private life and doesn’t give a flying f–k what you think of her because she’s doing her own thing (and both are immensely talented).
    Would love to go on a girls trip with these two.

    • alexc says:

      I live a few miles away from her. Everyone knows who she is and treats her like just another local. She’s super friendly and down to earth. The Coens are as cool as they come.

      • Sandra says:

        Love to hear this!

      • Justwastingtime says:

        Maybe 20 years ago, I was on the UWS of NY in my neighborhood (not fancy) nail salon. A woman struck up a conversation with me – a very normal friendly conversation. It was Frances but I didn’t realize that until a staff member told me as I was paying to leave (after Frances left). She is very low key.

    • LightPurple says:

      She and Tilda have been in several movies together, (Moonrise Kingdom, Burn After Reading, Hail Caesar) but I can’t remember them ever having a scene together. Somebody needs to make that happen.

  2. local russian hill says:

    love her. she used to stay at a hotel i worked for. she’d call me to make her reservations. she’d sit in the lobby and read and no one would bother her because no one even realized it was her. plus by not doing advertisements and interviews, she sent the message that she more readily values her privacy so even when some people did realize it was her, they let her be. she has an amazing presence and is so kind. i also see her sometimes when i go hiking. she’s just chilling at a restaurant nearby. keep doing it your way frances.

  3. Mac says:

    Frances had the safety net of a wealthy and well-connected partner. Most actors have to hustle to make a name for themselves.

    • tcbc says:

      THIS. I love Frances, and she’s incredibly talented, but when your husband and brother in law are some of the most respected working filmmakers and more than willing to cast you, you have an advantage that other actresses don’t. She was also never the ingenue, and Hollywood punishes the women they used to want to sleep with when those women age, which is one of the reasons those women go crazy with plastic surgery and diet themselves to death.

    • MF1 says:

      Yeah, and the situation is worse for young actors coming up in the business today. Even the ones from wealthy families, there’s a lot of pressure to be on social media, to live a public life and promote your “brand.” It’s unfortunate because I think she’s right that being kind of anonymous does allow the audience to connect with her characters in a deeper way.

    • Anna says:

      So true

    • Emilia says:

      Absolutely. Good for her if she could skip doing press for years but most actresses can’t get away with that. Most need the publicity to stay relevant and keep booking jobs.

    • VS says:

      She is talented as well……….it is not just because of whom she is married to. The actors who don’t have to do a lot of publicity are usually the ones way above the pack in terms of talent!

      Additionally, the young generation also has to deal with Social media; which is another beast of its own!

  4. Lightpurple says:

    While there is great sadness in Nomadland, I found it beautiful and uplifting. Frances is phenomenal

  5. lowercaselois says:

    I saw Nomadland and thought her performance was captivating. I watched it with my husband and after we had a great conversation about life and the acquisition of material things.

  6. GrnieWnie says:

    I love that she doesn’t wear makeup. I’ve been thinking about trying that. But I just don’t think I look good without it. I like women who just do it anyway.

    • Jennifer says:

      I stopped wearing makeup during the start of the pandemic when I was home so much. Now that I’m out in public a bit more I only fill in my eyebrows because otherwise they are non-existent and occasionally a little cover up under my eyes. I don’t wear mascara or anything else anymore. Don’t miss that whole routine at all.

    • Ann says:

      Women look fine without makeup. We have just been brainwashed by a billion dollar beauty industry that we don’t. Why don’t men need to ear make up?

      • Larissa says:

        They don’t have to, nobody has to… you choose to. There are incredible men who do wear makeup and absolutely rock it. This is the 21st century. have fun, wearing makeup or not.

  7. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I’m old, so this is why I probably feel this way, but I agree with her 100%. I wish every actor would disappear between projects. I don’t want to hear them, their opinions, their political affiliations, that they don’t vaccinate, they pre-chew their baby’s food, how difficult their lives are, philosophize about life and how we should live, blah blah blah. The only thing that has done in my world is drive me away from theaters and actually NOT being able to watch certain actors anymore, ever. They’re supposed to leave us wanting more. Operative words being leave us.

    I don’t want gossip blogs to go out of business obviously, but if these attention whores would dial it down, gossip would actually increase. Gossip, by it’s very nature, is whispered and on the down low. Is anything whispered and hush hush now? No, we’re covering our eyes and ears for protection from all the noise. Francis is not a young woman. She took a risk and did what I’ve always wanted from professional pretenders. Exit the stage to prepare for the next project. Full stop.

    Just let Tom Holland lip sync Umbrella.

  8. Anna says:

    omg Handmaid’s Tale Season 4…I’m obsessed and horrified by this show all at once…I don’t think I can handle watching it especially not still in the midst of pandemic (though if we hadn’t won the election, it would be exponentially worse to watch). Maybe I’ll have to put parental controls on my own viewing because self-control is limited these days but then I’ll end up traumatized by another season of HT lol-sigh :/

  9. Nerdista says:

    She’s a bit much for me.

  10. Meg says:

    I grew up in Minnesota so anytime we drove outside of the midwest people were regularly disappointed when our accents weren’t as thick as the characters in Fargo. She was better at her job than her male counterparts and did it all while pregnant, heavily pregnant. I watched an edited tv version with my dad as a kid and he said see its just good people winning, they may not have exciting lives but good people win in end in this movie. So we love her.
    Theyre very private people and many actors probably feel they arent very exciting people and their jobs involve entertaining audiences but they themselves are not entertaining and shouldn’t be. they want a separation from work and their real lives

  11. Mee yo says:

    That ability to skip press is not an option for most actors outside of her, DeNiro, Pacino, Streep. Part of your pay is in doing press after the shoot. Posting on Twitter and ig have compensation packages attached in the contract. And most actors aren’t married to acclaimed actor/directors who can just put them in their movies as some pointed out above. Other actors have to go play charades on Fallon et al

  12. Chloe says:

    She’s so awesome, and my absolute favorite actress.