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Jane Campion becomes third woman to win best director Oscar

The celebrated New Zealand auteur follows Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), who triumphed in 2010, and Chloé Zhao ("Nomadland"), who won last year.
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Jane Campion on Sunday night became the third woman in film history to win the best director prize at the Academy Awards, earning a statuette for the brooding Western “The Power of the Dog.”

“The Power of the Dog” stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a cruel rancher in 1920s Montana who is forced to confront his inner turmoil.

Campion, 67, went into the ceremony as the first woman to have been nominated twice in the best director category. She was previously nominated for the haunting drama “The Piano” in 1994; the award that year went to Steven Spielberg for “Schindler’s List.”

Seven women have been nominated for directing in the 94-year history of the Oscars, and only two had previously won: Kathryn Bigelow, for the low-budget Iraq War thriller “The Hurt Locker,” and Chloé Zhao, for the Frances McDormand road drama “Nomadland.”

The four other women previously nominated in the category were the late Lina Wertmüller (“Seven Beauties”), Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”), Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) and Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”).

Campion this year was up against Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”), Ryusuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car”), Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”) and Spielberg, who was recognized for his retelling of “West Side Story.”

Campion is widely considered one of the finest directors working today, celebrated for her perceptive portraits of outsiders and artists. “The Power of the Dog,” adapted from a novel by Thomas Savage, was her first theatrical release in 12 years.

Campion made her feature-length theatrical debut with “Sweetie” (1989), the tale of two ill-matched sisters, and followed that up with “An Angel at My Table” (1990), a captivating character study drawn from New Zealand author Janet Frame’s three-volume autobiography.

Director and Producer Jane Campion on the set of "The Power of the Dog."
Director and producer Jane Campion on the set of "The Power of the Dog."Kirsty Griffin / Netflix

“The Piano,” released in 1993, cemented Campion’s status as a world-class filmmaker and trailblazer. The film, starring Holly Hunter and a young Anna Paquin, dazzled critics and won the Palme d’Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.

Hunter and Paquin earned Oscars for their performances at the 66th Academy Awards. Campion won the best original screenplay prize, besting the screenwriters behind “Dave,” “In the Line of Fire,” “Philadelphia” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”

Campion went on to direct the adaptation of Henry James’ 1881 novel, “The Portrait of a Lady” (1996), the satirical dramedy “Holy Smoke!” (1999), the cult erotic thriller “In the Cut” (2003) and the melancholic romance “Bright Star” (2009).

She also co-wrote and co-directed the unnerving television series “Top of the Lake,” starring Elisabeth Moss as a detective who investigates sex crimes.