17 Cool Things I Just Learned About "Nomadland" That You'll Probably Want To Know Too

    The woman who plays Fern's sister is actually one of Frances McDormand's oldest friends in real life.

    1. Almost the entire cast was comprised of "real" people, i.e. not professional actors.

    Chloé Zhao directs members of the cast at an RV show

    2. In fact, all the characters in the film are named after the people who played them in real life — except for Frances McDormand and the woman who plays Fern's sister Dolly.

    List of the cast names showing their characters are the same as the real people

    3. The woman who plays Fern's sister Dolly is actually one of McDormand's oldest friends in real life, Melissa Smith.

    San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater has announced that conservatory director Melissa Smith will be leaving the organization on Dec. 31. Peter J. Kuo and Danyon Davis will step in @ACTSanFrancisco. https://t.co/oVHiGj1Sjm

    Twitter: @AmericanTheatre

    Smith served as the conservatory director and head of acting at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco for 25 years and has performed off-Broadway in New York, throughout the US, and in England.

    4. When she was younger, McDormand said her dream was to change her name to Fern and "hit the road" in an RV when she turned 65.

    5. The production filmed with a super minimal crew...just 25 people.

    A boom operator, camera man, and assistant film Frances outside her van

    6. And the crew all lived out of vans, including the one in the movie, "Vanguard" (Fern's van), during filming.

    A film slate with "Road Movie" written on it during production

    7. They were able to film inside an Amazon packaging facility simply by "asking."

    Fern carries a yellow bin down an aisle inside an Amazon packaging facility

    8. McDormand's husband, writer/director Joel Coen, actually visited the set one day.

    Joel Coen and Frances McDormand sit in the audience of an awards show

    9. McDormand — who also produced the film — found director Chloé Zhao at the Toronto Film Festival.

    Chloe Zhao and Frances McDormand goofing around behind-the-scenes

    10. Because the production was physically demanding, McDormand said she was actually assigned a "baby-sitter" to make sure she got to bed and got up on time so she wouldn't get exhausted.

    Zhao watching Frances acting through a camera monitor

    11. The film is based on the non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, but the filmmakers really think of it as more of a "companion piece."

    Cover of the "Nomadland" book which shows an old RV parked in the middle of nowhere

    12. In fact, many of the real people in the movie were also in the book, like Bob Wells, for example.

    Bob Wells talking to Fern during a sunset

    13. Zhao and McDormand started filming scenes for Nomadland just three months after the actor's second Oscar win.

    Frances McDormand giving her acceptance speech at the 90th Academy Awards

    14. And that evening, while they were in the van, McDormand got an upset stomach from dinner and really took a dump in a five-gallon bucket.

    Fern sitting on a toilet bucket, having diarrhea

    15. Wall Drug is a very real place. In fact, it's one of the most popular tourist attractions in South Dakota.

    Fern scraping a griddle top clean

    16. One of the film's producers, Peter Spears, has a small role in the film as, well, Peter. He's one of the other people at David's son's home.

    Peter acting in the movie opposite Frances and a behind-the-scenes shot on set

    17. And finally, the Autumn Leaves plates Fern said were given to her by her father in the movie were REALLY gifted to McDormand by her own father when she graduated from college.

    Fern holding an old dish with autumn leaves on it