Carnegie Mellon University
February 08, 2022

CMU Drama Alumna Receives Oscar Nod

By Shannon Musgrave

Shannon Musgrave
  • School of Drama

Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama alumna Siân Heder has earned her first Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for her film, "CODA," which also received the prestigious Best Picture nomination.

"CODA" (the acronym for "child of deaf adults") tells the story of 17-year-old Ruby Rossi (played by Emilia Jones), the only hearing member of a deaf family. Her parents are played by Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur. Kotsur received a nomination for Best Actor, making him the first deaf person to be nominated in that category. (Matlin was nominated and won Best Actress in 1987 for "Children of a Lesser God.")

The film premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded both the U.S. Grand Jury Prize and the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award, and Heder won Best Director in the U.S. Dramatic section. Following a bidding war for the film's rights, it was acquired by Apple for $25 million — a festival record.

Heder graduated from CMU in 1999 with her B.F.A. in drama. Her past work includes writing and co-producing early seasons of "Orange is the New Black" and writing and directing "Tallulah," in which she cast CMU classmates Zachary Quinto, Tommar Wilson and Rachel Hardin.

Former School of Drama faculty member Paul Tazewell, who was at CMU from 2003-2006 as an associate professor of costume design, was nominated for Best Costume Design for his work on Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story."

The 94th Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, March 27 on ABC.

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