These women are calling the shots before they ever step in front of the cameras

An illustration of woman and film strips showing scenes from 2023 movies.
This year, at least 10 actresses signed on to produce their films as well as star in them.
(Illustration by Maddalena Carrai, For the Times)

Only one human — Frances McDormand — has won a performance and a producing Academy Award for the same film (2020’s “Nomadland”).

This year, at least 10 actresses will eventually try to follow in fantastic Fran’s footsteps: Awkwafina and Sandra Oh (“Quiz Lady”), Jessica Chastain (“Mothers’ Instinct”), Cynthia Erivo (“Drift”), Dakota Johnson (“Daddio”), Anna Kendrick (“Woman of the Hour”), Natalie Portman (“May December”), Margot Robbie (“Barbie”), Emma Stone (“Poor Things”) and Kate Winslet (“Lee”).

The Envelope talked with the co-producers of some of the top awards-contending women on this list to see what input their creative partners provided.

In "May December," Natalie Portman plays an actor studying Julianne Moore's character for a role.
In “May December,” Natalie Portman plays an actor studying Julianne Moore’s character for a role.
(François Duhamel / Cannes Film Festival)

Natalie Portman

Elizabeth Berry in “May December”

Elevator pitch: An actress (Portman) doing research upends the lives of the woman she’ll portray (Julianne Moore) and her much younger husband (Charles Melton).

Director: Todd Haynes

Oscar pedigree: In three nominations, Portman won lead actress for 2010’s “Black Swan.”

“Natalie brings an incredible amount of preparedness and thoughtfulness to her work, whether she is in front of or behind the camera,” says her MountainA producing partner Sophie Mas. “I have always been impressed by the risks she takes as an actress and her full commitment to the role. In ‘May December,’ she plays an actress researching a role for a film. Of course, the character is nothing like Natalie is as an actress, and the subtleties and nuance she brings to the performance are revelatory.

“In particular, she delivers a monologue toward the end of the film which I truly believe people will be teaching in acting classes in years to come. But unlike some actors, Natalie can move seamlessly between shots and wear different hats. She is a chameleon. She can disappear into the character in one moment and in the next be handling a task as a producer, or as a mom the next.

“Those same qualities also make her a terrific producer deftly navigating the many people and tasks involved. 2022 was a busy year for our production company, filming two other projects (‘Lady in the Lake’ and ‘Angel City’). There were days when we were on set filming for ‘Lady in the Lake’ where during lunch we’re having calls to solve schedule shuffling due to COVID cases and then looking at casting and prep for ‘May December.’ It was really impressive to see her so effortlessly balancing it all when we all know how much effort it truly takes.”

Ryan Gosling as Ken rides in the back seat of a pink convertible as Margot Robbie as Barbie drives in "Barbie."
Ryan Gosling stars as Ken alongside Margot Robbie’s Barbie.
(Associated Press)

Margot Robbie

Barbie in “Barbie”

Elevator pitch: The iconic doll suffers an identity crisis that requires her to journey from Barbie Land to the Real World, with Ken (Ryan Gosling) in tow.

Director: Greta Gerwig

Oscar pedigree: Robbie earned lead actress nominations for 2017’s “I, Tonya,” and as supporting actress for 2019’s “Bombshell.”

“Margot’s ability to wear two hats and switch between them instantaneously is remarkable,” says her LuckyChap partner and “Barbie” co-producer Tom Ackerley. “She can go from acting in any type of scene to springing off set and getting straight into a call about budgets or whichever production conversation we’re having at any given moment.

“As a producer, she has an ability to get to the root of whatever needs to be done. She’s so incredibly present, collaborative and personable at all times, and she gives time to — and manages — all types of personnel, from studio heads to facilities drivers. It’s a true superpower that few have.”

Emma Stone stares off into the distance against a brilliant blue sky in "Poor Things."
Emma Stone stars in and co-produced “Poor Things.”
(Atsushi Nishijima / Searchlight Pictures)

Emma Stone

Bella Baxter in “Poor Things”

Elevator pitch: A near-dead woman (Stone) springs back to life and has awakenings of all sorts — especially sexual — after a scientist (Willem Dafoe) transplants a baby’s brain into her head.


Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Oscar pedigree: In three nominations, Stone won lead actress for 2016’s “La La Land.”

“Emma was one of the first people I spoke to about ‘Poor Things’ when it finally felt that it was possible to put it together,” says Lanthimos, who produced alongside Stone. “It was something I wanted to make for a while, and after ‘The Favourite,’ it seemed like a great opportunity to give it a go. She immediately got excited with the premise of the novel and was completely taken by the character of Bella Baxter the same way I was.

“From then on, she was hooked. She wanted to know everything, see everything and listen to everything. Her joining us as a producer on the film was inevitable. Emma believed in it from the start more than anyone. She’s the perfect sounding board about everything. We talked about other actors, looked at the set and costumes and researched ideas and design.

“As a producer, she encouraged and gave me a lot of confidence in every aspect of making the film. At the same time, I watched her create Bella Baxter with wonder and was immensely inspired by her talent. I could never hope for a better creative partner.”