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Why Maggie Gyllenhaal ‘Burst Into Tears’ When She Heard the Oscar Nominations

‘The Lost Daughter’ writer-director tells TheWrap, ”We started drinking the champagne and we just haven’t stopped“

After picking up an Oscar nomination for her adapted screenplay of Elena Ferrante’s novel “The Lost Daughter,” Maggie Gyllenhaal joins a very short list of three women who have been nominated for acting and writing. She previously scored a nod in 2011 for her supporting performance opposite Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart.”

“My mother told me this, so you might have to fact-check it,” Gyllenhaal told TheWrap with a laugh, admitting she wasn’t aware she had just made history. Her mother was correct – only Ruth Gordon and Emma Thompson have been cited in both writing and acting categories in the past. “If that’s true, that is my favorite thing,” Gyllenhaal said. “I’m so thrilled to be in that club.”

And while we’re on the subject of Gyllenhaal’s mother, there’s another bit of history making going on. Gyllenhaal and her mom, Naomi Foner, are the second mother and daughter pair to be Oscar nominated for screenwriting. Foner was nominated in 1989 for the River Phoenix drama “Running on Empty.” (The other mother-daughter pair: Phoebe Ephron, who was nominated for “Captain Newman, M.D.” in 1964, and three-time nominee Nora Ephron, who wrote “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”)

In a short but wide-ranging conversation with the proud, excited, and reflective Gyllenhaal, we discussed her newfound experience of fully embracing the ritual of Oscar nomination morning.

Yannis Drakoulidis/Netflix

Congratulations. Were you watching the live stream this morning?

Yes, we were. Often, in the past, I have tricked myself into not knowing when nominations are being announced. But this year, I just said, “F— it, I know that they’re happening.” So we planned for it. We (Gyllenhaal and husband, Peter Sarsgaard) got our kids off to school in the morning and then we watched the whole thing and we decided we would have a sip of champagne either way.

Not only did you get nominated for writing, but you also directed two of the nominated actresses, Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley.

And Jessie was the very first name called out in any category! I realized that Jessie was by no means a done deal for a nomination. But for me, I was holding onto the idea of her getting in as something I really hoped might happen. When they said her name, I just burst into tears. Peter might have been crying too. So much of his work in the film was with her. We just love her. And so we started drinking the champagne and we just haven’t stopped.

Have you had a chance to talk with Jessie Buckley?

Actually, I FaceTimed with Jessie during the five-minute break in the live-stream. She was in London, walking around, and Olivia had just called her, so she knew she got nominated. Then a bit later I got to FaceTime with Olivia. She was on the street too, in a mask and hat. She was on her way to work and she had missed the Best Actress category. Which is very Olivia.

To be able to celebrate with both of them really represents the triumvirate of the film. But we can’t forget about Dakota (Johnson), who is so brilliant, and hopefully she’ll be celebrating with us as well.

“The Lost Daughter” has been such an interesting film to talk with friends about, and to debate the meaning of the film and the ending. I have a friend who finished watching it and said, “Motherhood is rough.”

Hopefully not just in terms of motherhood but in terms of all sorts of feminine experiences. Only a fraction of our experience has been reflected back at us. There are brilliant men who can articulate a feminine experience, but how can they be expected to know the nooks and crannies and hidden secrets that we women do everything we can not to express?

So I think something new and different happens when women are writing and directing. For me, parenting is the most challenging, the biggest thing I’ve ever tried to do. Along with the fact that you go into it as a beginner. How could that huge experience not include a massive spectrum of feelings, like despair and terror and heart-wrenching joy?

What do you remember about your experience 12 years ago, when you were nominated for “Crazy Heart”?

Well, I was in L.A. and back then, I did successfully do the thing of not knowing when the nominations were even going to be announced. So I was asleep and I was genuinely surprised by the news. I remember sitting in the dark and getting all these texts. I got one back then from Tony Kushner, who is a friend. And then that whole period was a special time, especially with Jeff Bridges eventually winning his Oscar for “Crazy Heart.”

This time, well, it’s such a different experience as a writer and director. Here I’m trilled to the point of tears when Jessie gets nominated. And Olivia too. It just makes for a bigger spectrum of feelings. And I’ll say, as an actress, I’m always trying to tell a full story, but I sometimes find that 30 or 40 percent of what I hope to express shows up in the film. As a director, it’s all in the film. Everything just feels… more.

Have you had a chance to share the good news with Elena Ferrante?

I should, I should! I guess I’ll email her. It’s just wonderful.

Also, I wanted to ask about your category this time. It’s a great one, with “Drive My Car” and Sian Heder for “Coda” and Jane Campion.

And Denis Villeneuve and his co-writers from “Dune” were nominated too, right?

Yep, exactly.

Sian Hader and I have been on a bunch of panels over the last year, with Rebecca Hall (actress and writer-director of Passing). We were just recently saying that we feel like a sisterhood. We’ve been really enjoying each other’s company. I love all of them.

And Jane, I mean, what can I really say? She’s been an inspiration to me for most of my life. It sounds sentimental to say but it’s actually true: I am standing on the shoulders of the work Jane Campion did before me. That’s not just rhetoric. It’s real.

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