Frances McDormand says she’s always dreamt of hitting the road.
She told her husband when she was 45 that she had plans to change her name to Fern when she turns 65 and “start smoking Lucky Strikes, drinking Wild Turkey and I’d hit the road in my RV.”
Her dreams sort of came true with “Nomadland.” The 63-year-old Oscar winner stars in the new Searchlight Pictures as Fern, a woman who lives in her van and joins a community of drifters. The film, directed by Chloe Zhao, is based on Jessica Bruder’s 2017 non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.”
Among McDormand’s co-stars are Linda May, Swankie, Bob Wells and Derek Endres, real-life people who live on the road, but portray slightly fictionalized versions of themselves in the movie.
The Telluride Film Festival hosted a drive-in screening of “Nomadland” on Friday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
“It was a lesson in humility to be accepted by a group of people to know that whatever currency I have earned as an actor didn’t make any difference if I couldn’t pull my rig, if I didn’t know how to take a dump in my five-gallon bucket,” McDormand said, adding, “It takes a lot of courage to commit to the life and I’m really humbled by it.”
Swankie began living in her RV about 12 years ago after her two children were grown and out of the house.
“I have more resources and more happiness and joy in my life right now,” she said.
Choking back tears, she added, “I felt more love from Fran and Chloé and the film crew than I felt from my own biological family. I can never really show my gratitude for that.”
The morning after the screening, the cast and crew learned that “Nomadland” had won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. The win makes Zhao the first female filmmaker to receive the honor since Sofia Coppola did a decade ago with “Somewhere.” Zhao is also the first woman of color to win the top prize since Mira Nair in 2001 for “Monsoon Wedding.”
(Pictured above: France McDormand, Chloé Zhao, Swankie and Linda May.)