Selma director Ava DuVernay made history with her 2015 Golden Globe nomination, becoming the first African American female director nominated for Best Director.

Ava DuVernay: First Black Woman Nominated For Best Director

The 2015 Golden Globe nominations were, as usual, predictable, but one film shook up the race – the yet-to-be-released Selma, a film chronicling the Selma marches led by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965.

Produced and co-starring Oprah Winfrey, the film earned four nominations: Best Actor in a Drama for David Oyelowo, Best Original Song for “Glory” by Common and John Legend, Best Picture – Drama and a historic nomination for director Ava DuVernay.

DuVernay’s nomination for her film on Martin Luther King Jr., Selma, is noteworthy on multiple fronts. The director is only the third black person to be nominated – Spike Lee was nominated in 1990 for Do The Right Thing and Steve McQueen received his nomination in 2014 for 12 Years a Slave. She is also the fifth woman nominated in the award show’s history.

DuVernay is no stranger to breaking barriers. In 2012, Sundance Film Festival awarded her the prize of Best Director for her critically acclaimed film, Middle of Nowhere, making her the fist African American woman to receive the honor. DuVernay also cast a few actors from Middle of Nowhere in Selma, including leading man, Oyelowo.

DuVernay said she hadn’t dreamed of getting a nomination for herself, but hoped for Oyelowo to be recognized instead. “All I was thinking in my heart, truly, was ‘Please just David, just David.’ This man put every ounce of his heart and spirit and mind, every piece of his DNA into this picture. That’s all I wanted,” DuVernay told The Hollywood Reporter.

For his part, Oyelowo couldn’t be more proud of his director, saying, “She’s the first black woman to be nominated for best director. She’s made a little bit of history. It’s so wonderful. I’m so proud of her. She’s only been doing this for five years; this is her third movie. It’s a big moment for her.”

The Making Of Selma

Before DuVernay signed on to direct Selma – and reportedly conduct an extreme and uncredited re-write – five male directors had been attached to the project. Stephen Frears, Paul Haggis, Michael Mann, Spike Lee and Lee Daniels were all at one point tied to the project. In fact, DuVernay was first signed on as a consulting publicist for the film with Daniels as director. When she finally took the job to direct in 2013, she did it on the condition that she could rewrite Paul Webb’s screenplay, which, by all accounts, told a much different story than what ended up on the screen. Due to contracts already in place, Webb retained writing credit and DuVernay is not credited as a co-writer.

While the original script focused on the White House politics involved with passing the Voting Rights Act, the script now known as Selma puts the focus squarely on MLK. “My interest was showing people on the ground in Selma,” said DuVernay.

Selma opens in limited release on Christmas day and wide release on Jan. 9.

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