10 major milestones for women behind the camera in Hollywood
She's only the second woman to win best director in Cannes Film Festival history. Video provided by Newsy
For all the progress Hollywood depicts in its films, behind the scenes, gender and racial equality has barely inched forward in the last several decades. In fact, just 7% of 2016's top-grossing films were directed by women, a two percentage point drop from 2015, according to research by the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film at San Diego State University.
That's why every milestone for women behind the camera — including Woman Woman's record-breaking first weekend — rings so loudly from the proverbial hilltops, why every female director who is judged on her work (instead of her poise, presence or beauty) remains a victory for all.
USA TODAY looks back at 10 firsts for female directors.
'Wonder Woman' Patty Jenkins crushes first weekend records
Jenkins smashed female superhero stereotypes and box-office records: Wonder Woman had the biggest opening weekend ever for a movie directed by a woman, raking in $103.3 million. (The previous record holder, Sam Taylor-Johnson's Fifty Shades of Grey, opened with $85.2 million in 2015.) "I will not downplay it and say it was easy or it was not an incredible task," Jenkins told USA TODAY. "But what’s notable to me is it’s not that difficult of a task. ... It’s not that different for me to direct than anybody else." Like a man.
Lucia Aniello takes back the R-rated comedy reins
Aniello's Rough Night (out Friday), headlined by Scarlett Johansson, is the first R-rated studio comedy directed by a woman in nearly 20 years. (The last was Tamra Davis’ Half Baked in 1998.) It's a fact Aniello (Broad City) finds "more depressing than encouraging." But "even just parading around the statistic is a good thing," she tells USA TODAY. "People are always like, ‘That seems insane,’ but if publicizing this movie makes people realize we need more women directing, especially in comedy, then that part is encouraging.”
Sofia Coppola breaks a 56-year barrier at Cannes
After bringing her Civil War remake The Beguiled to Cannes Film Festival, Coppola won best director, becoming the second woman to do so (the first was Yuliya Solntseva in 1961). In 2003, Coppola became the first American woman nominated for the Academy Award for best director (Lost in Translation). "I haven't seen a lot of progress since when I started," Coppola tells USA TODAY. "But at this moment, it feels like there's a lot of talk and a shift. I'm really gratified that Wonder Woman did so well. It feels like it's going in a positive direction."
Ava DuVernay: First woman of color to helm a big-budget film
With Disney's A Wrinkle in Time (now in production for release next spring), DuVernay became the first black woman to direct a film with a $100 million or more budget. In 2014, she also became the first black woman nominated for best director at the Golden Globes for Selma. Hollywood "is a patriarchy, headed by men and built for men," she told Glamour in 2016. "To pretend like Hollywood is anything other than that is disingenuous. #OscarsSoWhite is trendy, but for women filmmakers and filmmakers of color, it’s not a trend. This is our reality, and it’s important that we do something to change it. We have to find new ways to work without permission, new ways to turn corners and go through doors that are closed off to us to create our own audiences and our own material independently."
Kathryn Bigelow wins Hollywood's highest honor
In 2010, Bigelow shattered a previously impenetrable glass ceiling in Hollywood by becoming the first woman to win the best director Oscar for The Hurt Locker. She was also the first woman to direct a movie with a $100 million-plus budget (2002’s K-19: The Widowmaker); Jenkins was the second with Wonder Woman, and DuVernay will be the third with Wrinkle.
Penny Marshall breaks into the $100 million box-office club
No one in Hollywood wanted to helm the now-classic comedy Big until Penny Marshall came along. The actress/filmmaker/author directed Tom Hanks to an Oscar nomination, and the 1988 body-swapping fantasy film became the first movie directed by a woman to gross more than $100 million at the box office ($151 million worldwide).
Jane Campion takes home the coveted Palme d'Or
In 1993, Campion became the first — and the only — female filmmaker to receive Cannes' top prize, the Palme d'Or, for The Piano. The drama was nominated for eight Oscars (including best picture), and Campion would go on to win original screenplay. Anna Paquin and Holly Hunter won supporting actress and actress Oscars, respectively.
Lina Wertmüller crashes the Academy's boys' club
In 1977, Wertmüller received an Oscar nomination as best director for Seven Beauties, making the Italian director the category's first female nominee (there have only been four: Bigelow, Wertmüller, Campion and Coppola). Please note, the Academy Awards began hosting ceremonies in 1929. Wertmüller lost to director John G. Avildsen, who won for Rocky.
Dorothy Arzner pushes into the studio system
With a career that launched in the 1920s and continued through the '40s, Arzner began as a writer and ultimately became the first female director in the studio system. She is credited with directing 17 films, and was the first woman to become a member of the Directors Guild of America.
Jennifer Yuh Nelson kicks butt with 'Kung Fu'
In 2011, the South Korean-American director became the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio with Kung Fu Panda 2. (She was head of story on the original Kung Fu Panda.) "There aren't a lot of female story artists, and it's baffling to me," Nelson told the Los Angeles Times before the second movie's release. "There are a lot of kids in school that are female and I wonder, where did they all go?" Kung Fu Panda 2 was nominated for a best animated feature Oscar and earned $165 million at the box office. She returned to co-direct Kung Fu Panda 3 in 2016.
Contributing: Patrick Ryan
'Wonder Woman' made her standalone debut in theaters last weekend. Fans already want a sequel.