The 60-year-old McDormand hailed all of the female winners and nominees in a rousing speech at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.
“We all have stories to tell and projects we need financed,” she said, pointing at the women she asked to stand throughout the audience.
“Don’t talk to us about it at the parties. Invite us into your office in a couple days or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best, and we’ll tell you all about them.”
McDormand, who also has two Emmys and a Tony award, is able to summon the toughest looks and deliver the most withering put-downs for the work she has done, largely in independent movies.
She won her first Academy Award for best actress in 1997 for her depiction of Marge Gunderson, a pregnant police officer in “Fargo,” which was directed by her husband, Joel Coen, and his brother Ethan.
More than two decades later, she has received some of the best reviews of her career for her role as a mother seeking to avenge the rape and murder of her daughter in “Three Billboards.”
McDormand triumphed in a tough field that included Meryl Streep in journalism thriller “The Post” and Sally Hawkins in fantasy romance “The Shape of Water.”
Born to a Canadian family in Chicago, Illinois in 1957, McDormand’s father was a Protestant minister. She studied at Yale Drama School and began working in the theater.
Her first film came in 1984 with “Blood Simple,” which was also the debut for the Coen brothers. That was the year she wed Joel, with whom she has a grown son.
McDormand, who has appeared in nine films by the Coen brothers, has often joked that she does not see herself as a movie star, despite having appeared in 41 films spanning four decades.
– Academy favorite –
McDormand is a regular favorite for the Academy — she has been nominated five times for acting statuettes, the last time for her role as a terminally ill miner in “North Country” (2005).
Her first nomination was for best supporting actress in “Mississippi Burning” (1988) and she was in the running in the same category for “Almost Famous” (2000).
Before Sunday, critics had been advising McDormand to draft her Oscars acceptance speech since the audience clapped and chortled their way through the “Three Billboards” world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September.
She cemented her status as the frontrunner after winning best actress at the Golden Globes in January.
British-Irish director Martin McDonagh wrote the script specifically for McDormand on the basis of an idea that first began to germinate 20 years ago when he was travelling across America by bus.
A decade later, he began to put a back story to a hard-to-explain billboard that had stuck in his mind, based on a mother whose daughter has been raped and murdered.
“Once I had decided it was a mother, the film wrote itself,” he said. “And picturing Frances in my mind helped me write it.”
McDormand said she prepared for the role by talking to people who had lost children.
“One of the things I discovered was that if you lose a husband or wife you are a widower, if you lose a parent you are an orphan but if a child dies there is no word for it,” she said in Venice.