If you’ve been following the 2022 Oscar race, then you’ve definitely heard about Jane Campion. The New Zealand native/trailblazing filmmaker is officially in the running to take home the Best Director trophy at this year’s Academy Awards and, FWIW, she’s widely considered to be the frontrunner to win (especially since she nabbed the top prize at the DGA Awards, which tends to be a pretty good predictor of who will win the Best Director category at the Oscars).
Need more intel on all things Campion? Keep scrolling for the essential facts you need to know about the Power of the Dog director.
She’s already made Oscar history.
With her nomination this year for The Power of the Dog, Campion achieved an Academy Awards first as the first woman to be nominated for Best Director twice (she was also nominated for her 1993 film The Piano). Of course, it’s obviously sad that that’s a threshold being crossed for the first time ever in 2022/after 94 years of Academy Awards ceremonies, but…better late than never? The Best Director category at the Oscars is still overwhelming dominated by men (according to Indie Wire, only seven other women have ever been nominated in the category at all).
She studied to be a painter.
Before she decided to make moving pictures, Campion made the old-fashion not-moving kind. She earned a bachelor’s degree in painting in 1979 from the Sydney School of the Arts and has said her traditional art background has definitely impacted her filmmaking, saying, “Art school is where all the learning I did took place.” In particular, she’s cited iconic Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo and German sculptor Joseph Beuys as important influences on her work.
She’s also a major TV talent.
In addition to her impressive track record directing films, Campion has also basically mastered the art of prestige television. She created, wrote, and directed (NBD, right?) 2013’s Top of the Lake. The Sundance Channel miniseries was a critical darling, earning its star, Elisabeth Moss, all kinds of acclaim (including a Golden Globe Award and a nomination for a Primetime Emmy). And, of course, Campion was also recognized by the TV community, nabbing an Emmy nom of her own for Outstanding Directing for her work on the series.
She almost quit filmmaking after her first movie, Sweetie.
Campion’s first feature film was 1989’s Sweetie—and it was almost her last. In an interview with Vanity Fair this year, she revealed that the mixed response Sweetie got from critics left her in tears for a whole day and could have marked the end of her career as a director if she hadn’t literally already started working on her followup movie at the time.
“I was really stunned,” she said of the experience. “If I had not been in preproduction on Angel at My Table already, I don’t think I would’ve made another film. It was so bitter. Maybe women don’t grow up with that locker-room toughness that guys have—they seem almost immune to criticism. I wish I had a little bit more of that in me.”
And she almost quit filmmaking again just before making The Power of the Dog.
That’s right: The world has had at least two close calls when it comes to Jane Campion’s art. In 2021, she told The Guardian that she was considering retirement before she read the 1967 novel The Power of the Dog and knew she had to help bring the story to the screen.
“I was actually thinking of retiring before I did this film, but then I thought, ‘Oh man, this is gonna be a big one,'” she explained. “I’d read the book and loved it and afterwards I just kept thinking about it. When I made a move to find out who had the rights, that’s when I knew it had got me. I needed to do it.”
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