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Frances McDormand has swept the early awards — will the Oscar be next?

Frances McDormand has swept the early awards — will the Oscar be next?
Frances McDormand as grieving mother Mildred Hayes in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." (Merrick Morton / Fox Searchlight)

After taking home Golden Globe, SAG and Critics Choice awards this season, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" star Frances McDormand could be closing in on the Oscar.

The actress, 60, won her first Academy Award more than 20 years ago for her role as the pregnant police chief in the Coen brothers' black comedy "Fargo" and currently stands one Grammy shy of EGOT status. This year, she's nominated in the lead actress category for her portrayal of a bereaved mother in director and screenwriter Martin McDonagh's best picture-nominated film.

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In an interview with The Times on Tuesday morning, McDonagh called McDormand "probably the best actor of her generation."

"She's got an integrity to her and a fierceness," he said. "There's an integrity to everything she does that is completely perfect for [this] part. And she's not sentimental about her choices and that was especially what we needed."

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"She has a very particular kind of integrity that is well-suited for this role," agreed co-star Sam Rockwell. "This role is written for her. There's a kind of relentless pursuit of the truth. Like a real kind of soothsayer, like she's trying to find the truth. She doesn't want any b.s. in her portrayals, in her lifestyle."

McDormand brought that signature integrity to her portrayal of Mildred Hayes, a grieving mother spurred to action after her daughter's brutal murder has gone unsolved for several months. Frustrated with the investigation's lack of suspects, Hayes rents out the titular billboards, calling out small-town Police Chief Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) for the lack of progress and creating a controversy among the town's residents.

"We all know how brilliant she is, but she really especially hits it out of the park with her performance in this movie," McDonagh said. "I'm really happy to be putting a film out there with a woman as strong as Frances in the lead. It's a great thing to be part of."

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"Martin McDonagh, you know how I feel about being your Mildred Hayes," McDormand said onstage during her Golden Globes acceptance speech. "Her every ragged inhalation and fierce exhalation is evidence of my gratitude."

McDormand also thanked her "two favorite cowboys, Sam and Woody," both of whom are nominated for supporting actor trophies at this year's Oscars. In an interview with The Times, Rockwell gushed over McDormand, a fellow theater actor whom he calls "a badass."

"The fact that she wears very little to no makeup whether she's doing a film or a red carpet, she's pretty minimal," Rockwell said. "I think she's a true — I wouldn't call her necessarily an ironclad feminist but she's a really strong, beautiful, soulful woman and a great actor."

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