Academy Awards: Is Emerald Fennell the First Woman to Win Best Original Screenplay?

With Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell took home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2021. The category and its companion, Best Adapted Screenplay, don’t often feature many women as nominees. Is Fennell the first woman to win this Academy Award?

Emerald Fennell wrote and directed ‘Promising Young Woman’

Emerald Fennell, winner of Best Original Screenplay for 'Promising Young Woman,' poses in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at Union Station in Los Angeles.
Emerald Fennell, winner of Best Original Screenplay for ‘Promising Young Woman,’ poses at the Oscars on Sunday, April 25, 2021. | Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images

Many know Fennell best as an actor. She’s appeared in films such as Alfred Knobs and The Danish Girl. She also portrayed Camilla Parker Bowles in The Crown Seasons 3 and 4. However, Fennell made most headlines in the past year or so for writing and directing the film Promising Young Woman.

The movie stars Carey Mulligan as Cassie, who frequently tricks men into thinking she’s drunk and shames them for trying to sleep with her after they take her home. Cassie reconnects with an old medical school classmate, who inadvertently helps her hatch a plan to get the ultimate revenge on those who raped her best friend years ago.

She won Best Original Screenplay at the 2021 Academy Awards

Promising Young Woman, Fennell’s feature-length debut as a writer and director, earned lots of praise when it debuted at Sundance Film Festival in January 2020. However, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, audiences didn’t see the film for 11 months, when it finally premiered on Christmas Day.

Fennell, the only woman in the Best Original Screenplay category, took home the award at the Oscars held on April 25, 2021. “This film was made by the most incredible people in the world who made it in 23 days and brought their complete genius and love and humor to it,” Fennell said in her acceptance speech. “I feel mortified that I’m [up] here by myself.”

It’s been 13 years since a woman won in the category

The Academy continuously expresses its desire to make the Oscars more inclusive to recipients beyond white men. But the award show fails to tout the works of women and people of color time and time again. In fact, before Fennell, it had been more than a decade since a woman won for Best Original Screenplay.

At the 2007 Academy Awards, Diablo Cody won the Oscar for Juno. “This is for the writers,” Cody began her acceptance speech. “I want to thank all the writers. I especially want to thank my fellow nominees because I worshipped you guys and I’m learning from you every day.”

Other women who’ve won a Best Screenplay Oscar

Sofia Coppola, winner for Best Original Screenplay Academy Award for 'Lost in Translation'
Sofia Coppola, winner for Best Original Screenplay Academy Award for ‘Lost in Translation’ | J. Vespa/WireImage

RELATED: Academy Awards: Has a Woman Ever Won the Best Director Oscar?

Less than a dozen women have won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar in the past. Notable among them are Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, Jane Campion for The Piano, and Callie Khouri for Thelma & Louise. A few others won as part of a larger group.

Several women have won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Frances Marion was the first woman ever to win a screenplay award for The Big House in 1930. And Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is the only woman to have won the award twice: First for A Room with a View and then for Howards End.