Jane Campion Wins Best Directing Oscar for ‘The Power of the Dog’: ‘It’s a Lifetime Honor’

Jane Campion Oscars Win
Christopher Polk for Variety

For the second year in a row, a woman has won the Oscar for best director.

Jane Campion took home the Academy Award for best director for “The Power of the Dog,” a searing Western drama about a hardened rancher (Benedict Cumberbatch) who torments his brother’s wife and her son.

“I just wanted to say big love to my fellow nominees. I love you all, you’re all so extraordinarily talented, and it could have been any of you,” Campion said in her acceptance speech. “I love directing because it’s a deep dive into story, yet the task of creating a world can be overwhelming. On ‘The Power of the Dog,’ I worked with actors I’m moved to call my friends. They met the challenge of the story with the depth of their gifts.”

After saluting the actors in the film and her family, Campion offered one final thank you to Thomas Savage, the author of the 1967 novel: “It would be impossible without the man I never met, Thomas Savage. He wrote about cruelty, wanting the opposite, kindness. Thank you, Academy. It’s a lifetime honor.”

The consecutive wins for women filmmakers is notable because only three in history — Chloe Zhao for “Nomadland” in 2021 and Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” in 2009 — have been awarded the best director trophy in 94 years. Just five women, the others being Lina Wertmüller, Sofia Coppola and Greta Gerwig, have ever been nominated for best director.

In the press interview room backstage after the ceremony was over, Campion expressed a belief that her wins only means many more women directors will as well. “I’m very proud to have won tonight — for my film and for my cast,” she said. “But also just to be another woman who’s going to be followed by a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, a seventh, and an eighth. I’m very excited by the fact that this is moving fast now. We need it. Equality matters.”

Later, Campion demurred when asked when she expects the best director category to be all women. “I’m someone that doesn’t really think about, too much, my fellow artists genders,” she said. “I really love great work when people do it and I don’t care who they are or where they come from. I’m just moved by it.”

At the same time, Campion said that “very often these days” the films she’s most excited by have been directed by women. “Because they’ve got this energy — they’ve been emboldened, I think, by the MeToo hashtag movement, to feel this is their time,” she said. “I think we’re going to see a lot more of exciting film coming from women. So that makes me excited.”

Campion made history as the first woman to be nominated twice for the Academy Award for best director. Her first nod came in 1994 when she was recognized for “The Piano,” a period piece about a mute Scottish woman who is sold off by her father to marry a New Zealand frontiersman. Though she lost the directing prize to Steven Spielberg for “Schindler’s List,” Campion won that year’s Oscar for original screenplay.

In a surprise rematch, Campion was once again vying for best director against Spielberg, who was recognized for his “West Side Story” remake. The category’s other formidable contenders included Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”), Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car”) and Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”).

But this time around, the best director race was hers to lose. “The Power of the Dog” has been widely heralded since premiering at the Venice Film Festival, where Campion won the Silver Lion for directing. Campion was named best director at every major precursor ceremony, including the Critics Choice Awards, the BAFTA Awards and the Directors Guild Awards, At the Oscars, “The Power of the Dog” scored 12 nominations, the most of any film this year.