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Jane Campion is now the third woman to win the best director Oscar

Jane Campion accepts the Oscar for best directing, for her work in <em>The Power of the Dog. </em>
Neilson Barnard
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Getty Images
Jane Campion accepts the Oscar for best directing, for her work in The Power of the Dog.

Jane Campion has won this year's best director Oscar for helming the Western drama The Power of the Dog. She is now the third director who is a woman to win an Oscar, following Kathryn Bigelow (in 2010 for The Hurt Locker) and Chloé Zhao (in 2021 for Nomadland).

Campion also wrote the screenplay based on Thomas Savage's 1967 novel of the same title. The story is set in 1925, about two Montana ranchers: Benedict Cumberbatch plays a cruel, complicated cowboy who is enraged when his brother (Jesse Plemons) brings home a wife (Kirsten Dunst) and her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). All four were nominated for top acting Oscars.

"I'm not telling one of the crusty old Western stories," she told NPR. "You know, from deep in the mythology where it's really only told from a kind of alpha male perspective."

The 67-year-old director shot the film on location in New Zealand, where she was born. She told NPR she loved cowboys and cowboy stories as a girl. "We used to organize vegetable boxes to be like horses and then sit on them and ride and pretend that we were riding across the American West."

In 1993, Campion directed The Piano, which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, making her the first woman to win the award. The film won three Academy Awards, including best original screenplay for Campion, best actress for Holly Hunter, and best supporting actress for Anna Paquin. Campion was also nominated for best director, but lost the award to Steven Spielberg for Schindler's List.

Campion had been the category frontrunner throughout this awards season. She won top prizes at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the Director's Guild Awards. Two weeks ago, she caused a stir at the Critics' Choice Awards with comments about tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, executive producers of the film King Richard, which tells the origin story of their family.

'You're such marvels," she said to the sisters during her acceptance speech. "However, you don't play against the guys, like I have to."

Campion faced backlash from many who pointed out, for one thing, that the Williams sisters absolutely did compete against men. Campion apologized the following day, saying in a statement, "I made a thoughtless comment equating what I do in the film world with all that Serena Williams and Venus Williams have achieved. I did not intend to devalue these two legendary Black women and world-class athletes."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.