It was no surprise when Frances McDormand won the Best Actress award at this year's Oscars for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but her speech brought the audience to its feet — literally.
In what was hands-down the best acceptance speech of the night, McDormand initially feigned being flustered and overly emotional before getting down to business. "OK, so, I'm hyperventilating a little bit," she said, elaborately shaking. "If I fall over, pick me up, because I've got some things to say," she said by way of introduction.
McDormand likened the adrenaline she was feeling to Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim "after doing back-to-back 1080s in the Olympic half-pipe." But the real message followed.
The actress rattled off a fairly run-of-the-mill list of thank-yous, but then put her Oscar statue down and asked all the female nominees in every category to stand with her. "Meryl, if you do it, everybody else will. Come on," McDormand told Meryl Streep, who was sitting in the front row. And she was right — one by one, McDormand's fellow female nominees got to their feet.
"Look around, everybody. Look around, ladies and gentlemen," McDormand said. "Because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don't talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple of days, or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best, and we'll tell you all about them. I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: Inclusion rider."
The actress expounded on her request backstage after her win, explaining to reporters that an inclusion rider allows actors to demand that the cast and crew consist of a certain percentage of people who represent diversity — i.e. women, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and people of color.
The idea of having "inclusion riders" was first proposed by Stacy Smith, the founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, who spoke about it in a TED talk in 2016.
McDormand told reporters that she herself had only found out about the term within the past week. "The fact that I just learned that after 35 years of being in the film business... we're not going back," she promised.
That's a reference to a clause in a contract which asks that speaking parts in movies go to diverse actors to better represent the world we live in.
The speech resonated so much with the audience that it prompted host Jimmy Kimmel to observe: "I really hope Frances McDormand gets an Emmy for the speech she gave at the Oscars, because that was absolutely unbelievable. I wish I was a woman. I really do."