"The Power of the Dog" filmmaker Jane Campion apologized Monday for comments she made Sunday night about tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams.
In an acceptance speech at the Critics Choice Awards on Sunday, Campion nodded to the Williams sisters, who were in the audience in support of the film "King Richard," starring Will Smith as their father, Richard Williams.
"Venus and Serena, you are such marvels. However, you do not play against the guys, like I have to," Campion said, referring to the four male directors who were also nominated in the best director category.
The seemingly offhand comment drew criticism on social media, with some faulting the New Zealand filmmaker for appearing to insult the Williams sisters' tennis prowess.
In a statement Monday afternoon, Campion said she was sorry for the remark.
"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," Campion said in the statement.
"The fact is the Williams sisters have, actually, squared off against men on the court (and off), and they have both raised the bar and opened doors for what is possible for women in this world. The last thing I would ever want to do is minimize remarkable women," she went on to say.
"I love Serena and Venus. Their accomplishments are titanic and inspiring. Serena and Venus, I apologize and completely celebrate you," she added.
Netflix is pushing hard for “The Power of the Dog” to win best picture at the Oscars. Campion is considered a front-runner for the best director award after she won equivalent honors at the Golden Globe Awards and the BAFTA Awards.
Campion made headlines Saturday for entirely different remarks. Asked to respond to actor Sam Elliott’s criticism of “The Power of the Dog,” Campion accused him of sexist rhetoric.
“I’m sorry, he was being a little bit of a B-I-T-C-H. He’s not a cowboy. He’s an actor,” Campion told a reporter for Variety. “The West is a mythic space and there’s a lot of room on the range. I think it’s a little bit sexist.”
In a recent appearance on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast, Elliott — who co-stars on the Paramount+ Western “1883” — blasted the movie, calling it a “piece of s---.”
He also criticized what he characterized as Campion’s “allusions to homosexuality.” (In the film, Benedict Cumberbatch plays a 1920s-era Montana rancher who is strongly suggested to be closeted.)
Campion, 67, goes into the 94th Academy Awards on March 27 as the first woman to be nominated twice in the best director category.
She was nominated for the haunting drama “The Piano” in 1994; the award that year went to Steven Spielberg for “Schindler’s List.”