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Oscar Nom Surprise: 'Another Round' Director Heard His Name, and the Rest Is a Blur

Thomas Vinterberg, the first Danish filmmaker nominated for Best Director, talks to TheWrap about his intoxicating nod for the Mads Mikkelsen film

On Oscar nominations morning, as the category of Best Director was read aloud by Priyanka Chopra, the first name up was one of the day's most intoxicating surprises. Thomas Vinterberg, who rose to fame in 1998 with his daring dark comedy "The Celebration," became the first Danish filmmaker ever nominated in the directing category, for "Another Round." Starring Mads Mikkelsen ("Hannibal," "Casino Royale") as an invigorated high school teacher who experiments with day drinking, the film was also nominated for Best International Film.

But because the director category is announced by the film's name, and "Another Round" came first in the alphabet, Vinterberg didn't catch the names of his fellow nominees. "We all started screaming when that happened, so we didn't hear the rest," Vinterberg told TheWrap on the phone from Denmark. "Tell me, who else is in the category?"

As I tell Vinterberg the names of his competition, he reacts with astonishment at each one: Emerald Fennell for "Promising Young Woman" ("Oh, well, of course, that's such a great film"); Chloé Zhao for "Nomadland" ("Amazing, amazing film"); Lee Isaac Chung for "Minari" ("Just fantastic"); and David Fincher for "Mank" ("Oh my god, wow").

"It's such a great bunch," he raved. "I'm very honored that my director colleagues from all different places on this planet voted for me -- and for us. I mean, in the directors' branch, these are filmmakers who I've been inspired by and who I've looked up to as heroes all my life. It's extra special that this nomination comes from them."

Over the last two decades, Vinterberg has made films in English and Danish, and worked with actors such as Joaquin Phoenix ("It's All About Love") and Carey Mulligan ("Far From the Madding Crowd"). But this Oscar recognition, he said, has been overwhelming.

"In the humble kingdom of Denmark, this has caused a bit of a hubbub. A lot of people are very happy about it. It would have been a super successful day for us, just to be nominated for International Film. That category has such a high level of quality movies. It's such a high level, actually, that some of my personal favorites weren't even nominated, like the Spanish film "I'm No Longer Here" and "Hope" from Norway, by Maria Sødahl."

Vinterberg's Oscar nomination ecstasy is somewhat leavened by the sadness of personal tragedy. In 2019, just before filming was set to begin on "Another Round," his daughter Ida was killed in an automobile accident. She was 19. Much of the film was shot in Ida's high school, her friends appears as Mikkelsen's students and the movie is dedicated to her.

"As we celebrate today, it's very strange," he said. "But life can sometimes be very strange. There's enormous grief, which, of course, is still a big part of me and my family. All these nominations and awards and all this love that comes to the film, it's all in my daughter's memory. So it's on a different level than I've ever done before. It's extremely special."

Right after our call ends, Vinterberg is due to appear on several Danish TV stations. Before hanging up, he took a moment to praise his team. "As the director, I'm very aware that I'm sitting on the shoulders here of Mads Mikkelson and my co-writer Tobias Lindholm and the whole cast and crew of this movie."

And, surely, to stay true to the imbibing spirit of the movie, as well. "Oh, yes, right now we're combining coffee and champagne," Vinterberg said with a laugh, adding, "We're doing our best. I think tonight will be an interesting night."