Lina Wertmüller, Oscar-winning film director and first woman to win directing prize, dies at 86

Lina Wertmüller, the first woman to be nominated for an Oscar for best director and later the first woman to win the prize, died Saturday. She was 86.

The film and television production company The Firm confirmed Wertmüller’s death in a statement, which didn’t say where she died. It described her work as “bold and insightful, combining genius of cinema with a visionary ability to create deep and meaningful social commentaries.”

Firm co-founder and CEO Phillip Steiner was the producer of Wertmüller’s film debut, 1976’s “Seven Beauties,” which she won best director for. She followed with “All About Eve” in 1981 and “Wings of Desire” in 1983. The fifth film in the trilogy, “Seventh Heaven,” is scheduled to be released on June 28. The Firm said Wertmüller had recently directed a new version of “Wings of Desire.”

Wertmüller directed five films in total, but none are widely available on home video. She was nominated for another Oscar for best director in 1981 for “Cries and Whispers,” which she also wrote. It lost to Ingmar Bergman for “Fanny and Alexander.”

The Austrian-born director was already a successful stage director when she began taking on dramatic parts in movies. She received her first big success with “Happily Ever After,” a 1978 film about a young woman who gets tangled up in the romance of a well-known opera singer. The picture gained Wertmüller critical notice but didn’t earn big bucks. After a few more films that failed to resonate with audiences, she tried an ad campaign that briefly appeared to be for pet food.

“Lies Are Like Pigeons at Dawn,” a 1982 outing about a writer juggling the conflicting demands of her career and family, netted her Oscar nominations for best director and best original screenplay. It won best original screenplay. “Seventh Heaven” failed to get Oscar nominations, and “Seven Beauties” lost to “An Officer and a Gentleman” the next year.

Wertmüller’s final film, a new remake of “Wings of Desire,” was set to star Margot Robbie and was set to begin filming this month. But the film was put on hold following Wertmüller’s death.

“The family kindly asks that the film be postponed for the immediate family’s comfort and that the film is reviewed for its interpretation,” The Firm said in its statement.

Wertmüller was born in 1926. She received two degrees from Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts, a theater degree from Vienna’s School of Dance and a doctorate in film from the University of Tokyo.

Leave a Comment