It's been more than 20 years since Frances McDormand won the Oscar for her performance in the Coen brothers' 1996 classic Fargo. And she seems to be heading for her second statuette with her thunderous role in Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, in which she plays Mildred, a woman deliberately provoking a small-town sheriff for not doing enough to catch the person who murdered her daughter.

Woody Harrelson and Frances McDormand in 'Three Billboards'Woody Harrelson and Frances McDormand in 'Three Billboards'

But McDormand shrugs off the Oscar talk. "All those awards things," she laughs, "it's the movie social season! It's the time when everybody celebrates that they're in the business. I was already proud of the work. But it's nice when you make a movie and other people think the same thing and you're not deluding yourself."

This particular role is something she essentially had a hand in creating, as she approached McDonagh after seeing one of his plays on Broadway 12 years ago. She recounts the story: "He said, 'I know you would be good in one of my plays.' I said, 'I hear you're making films - you should write me a part.' And lo and behold he did! I've only ever said that to two other people, Joel and Ethan Coen. I say it every couple of years!" (Note that she's been married to Joel since 1984.)

Watch the trailer for 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' here:

For Three Billboards, the part was something she couldn't resist. "Martin and I had long conversations about vulnerability," she says. "I believed there were places where Mildred simply can't access her emotions. So why be afraid of that? Everybody is crying in movies all the time, even the men! There's something healing about tears. If Mildred's emotions are so accessible, if she can so easily go to tears, then why is she so filled with rage? Because if you can cry out the pain, you don't need to burn down the police station. So I was interested in her being locked out of her own humanity."

At age 60, McDormand is thoroughly enjoying the kinds of roles that are available to her, but she wants more. "A friend told me there are three stages of a woman's life: maid, mother, crone," she notes. "Crone has been taken away from us, and I want it back! The culture of ageism has not let us go past 45. A crone is a sage and has wisdom, and is there for emergency situations. But if you can't identify us, if we look just like you, well that's one of the reasons we're such an undeveloped and immature culture. Everybody's arresting themselves at a certain age."