LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jane Campion’s sabbatical from moviemaking left the respect and admiration of her peers undiminished.
Campion, whose last feature film was 2009’s “Bright Star,” was honored as best director at Sunday’s Academy Awards for the unconventional Western “The Power of the Dog.”
The 67-year-old filmmaker’s victory marks the first time the directing award has gone to women in back-to-back years, with Chloé Zhao winning last year for “Nomadland.” Campion is the third woman to win in the category.
“Big love to my fellow nominees. ... You’re all so extraordinary, and it could have been any of you,” the New Zealand native said, calling the award a “lifetime honor.”
“I love directing because it’s a deep dive into story, yet the task of manifesting a world can be overwhelming. The sweet thing is I’m not alone,” Campion said, thanking the film’s stars, its producers and Netflix.
“The Power of the Dog,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee, is based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel about wealthy rancher brothers and is set in Montana in 1925. All received acting bids.
Campion, the first woman to be nominated twice for directing, triumphed over a field that included Steven Spielberg for the remake of “West Side Story.” When Campion received her first directing nod, in 1994 for “The Piano,” Spielberg won the trophy for “Schindler’s List.”
Her 1994 nomination made her only the second woman to compete in the category, following Lina Wertmuller’s groundbreaking bid in 1977 for “Seven Beauties.” Campion won the Oscar for best original screenplay for “The Piano,” with Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin receiving acting trophies.
Campion’s victory Sunday makes her the first woman to win both directing and writing awards.
Since the awards began in 1927, a total of seven women have competed in the best director category. Kathryn Bigelow was the first to win, for “The Hurt Locker” in 2010, with Zhao’s victory coming more than a decade later.
Campion wasn’t idle during her break from filmmaking. She co-created the TV series “Top of the Lake,” which in 2013 received eight Emmy nominations and one award for its first season. Campion shared writing and directing nods.
She was drawn back to film by Savage’s novel, which she called an “amazing piece of literature,” and the realization that, while she enjoyed making the TV series, she was ready to again embrace the framework of moviemaking.
“The discipline and the rigor of those two hours was something I was excited to go back to,” Campion told the AP last year.
Others nominated in the directing category this year were Paul Thomas Anderson for “Licorice Pizza,” Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast,” and Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car.”