5 Oscars stars you didn’t know had Minnesota ties

Minnesotans are nearing the end, finally, of the snowiest February in state history. And after you’ve finished shoveling your car out from the snow drift, we think it’s a great time to stay in, put on your coziest flannel, and watch some movies.

How about something with a local connection?

Many of the films recognized at last night’s Academy Awards featured Minnesota-raised directors, as well as actors who cut their teeth in our local theater scene. Here are a few of them:

Black Panther, starring Macalester alum Danai Gurira

Actress and playwright Danai Gurira is beloved for her tough and inspiring roles as zombie-fighter Michonne on AMC’s The Walking Dead and Wakandan warrior Okoye in 2018’s box office smash Black Panther. While Gurira has spent her life everywhere from Zimbabwe to New York City, her BA came close to home, from Saint Paul’s Macalester College. Black Panther, a Marvel story taking place in the fictional African nation of Wakanda (or possibly a Minnesota lake?) was nominated for Best Picture and earned awards for costume design, production design, and score.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, directed by St. Louis Park natives Joel and Ethan Coen

The Coen Brothers are old pros when it comes to the Academy Awards. The directing and writing duo have multiple nominations and wins under their belt, and explored new territory in 2018, streaming, with Netflix’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. The Coen Brothers grew up in St. Louis Park, and have paid homage to their home state in films like Fargo and A Serious Man, both of which take place primarily in Minnesota. Buster Scruggs was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Song.

Vice, starring Amy Adams, who got her start at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater

We all know Amy Adams from her iconic film roles, but many people may not know that the actress began her career in the Twin Cities at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater. In Vice, Adams plays former Second Lady Lynne Cheney and earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Free Solo, co-directed by Mankatoan Jimmy Chin

Most people probably don’t think of documentaries as edge-of-your-seat thrillers, but Free Solo, the story of rock climber Alex Honnold’s journey to the top of Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan, will definitely have you holding your breath. The film is directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, who was raised in Mankato by two Minnesota State University librarians. The film took home the award for Best Documentary Feature.

Bao, created with help from Pixar Creative Chief Pete Docter, originally of Bloomington

Best Animated Short winner Bao will pull at your heartstrings, and maybe make you hungry too. Chinese-Canadian director and animator Domee Shi took inspiration from her upbringing for the film, and was encouraged by her mentor, Pixar Creative Chief and Minnesotan Pete Docter, to stay true to her vision.

Minnesotans are innovators and leaders on and off the silver screen, and we’re proud to celebrate their achievements. Follow ABM on Facebook and Twitter to learn about more Minnesotans going after their dreams and working to benefit their communities.