Lina Wertmüller, the Italian filmmaker who in 1977 became the first woman to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar, has died at the age of 93, Deadline reports. She passed away at home in her birthplace of Rome.
Wertmüller had a long career in entertainment. After graduating from drama school in Rome, she began working in theater, where she had roles in set design, publicity, and puppeteering. She toured for years with an avant-garde puppet group.
In the 1960s, Wertmüller set her sights on film and worked closely with the director Federico Fellini. She served as an assistant director on his 1963 film 8 1/2 before her directorial debut, The Basilisks, arrived that same year.
Wertmüller rose to international acclaim in the 1970s with films like The Seduction of Mimi and Swept Away. The US National Board of Review named Swept Away the top foreign film of 1975.
That same year, Wertmüller directed Seven Beauties, the comedy drama that established her as a groundbreaking director. The film, which follows an Italian man who is sent to a prison camp during World War II for escaping the army, was nominated for four Oscars: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Actor for Giancarlo Giannini, and Best Writing (Original Screenplay) and Best Director for Wertmüller.
While Wertmüller didn’t win the award (it went to John G. Avildsen for Rocky), she remained the only woman to be considered for the honor for several decades. After Jane Campion was nominated in 1993 for The Piano, Katheryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the award in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.
Following Wertmüller’s Oscar nomination, she signed a four-picture deal with Warner Bros. to begin making English-language films. It spawned 1978’s A Night Full of Rain, starring Giannini and Candice Bergen. The film’s underwhelming commercial success led Warner Bros. to cancel the deal, but Wertmüller continued to work successfully in theater until her death.
In 2015, Valerio Ruiz helmed the documentary Behind the White Glasses, about Wertmüller’s work. Four years later, Wertmüller received an honorary Academy Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She was married to art designer Enrico Job, who died in 2008, and is survived by an adopted daughter.