Will Jane Campion’s wild weekend affect her Oscar chances?

A woman stands smiling at a microphone and holds an award.
Jane Campion accepts the award for best director for “The Power of the Dog” at the Critics Choice Awards on Sunday.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision/Associated Press)

By nearly every measure, it was a good weekend for filmmaker Jane Campion and her Oscar-nominated movie, “The Power of the Dog.”

Campion took the Directors Guild prize Saturday night and got off a jab at actor Sam Elliott on the red carpet before the ceremony. “I’m sorry, he was being a little bit of a B-I-T-C-H,” Campion, 67, said, responding to Elliott’s criticism of her western (“What the f— does this woman from [New Zealand] know about the American West?”) on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast two weeks ago.

Campion continued her dismissal of Elliott: “He’s not a cowboy; he’s an actor.”

Campion won the director honor again at the British Academy Film Awards on Sunday, with her film also taking BAFTA’s best picture prize. That night, Campion and “Dog” both prevailed at the Critics Choice Awards as well.


But after being celebrated Saturday on social media for her Elliott takedown, Campion found herself on the receiving end of a backlash for remarks made toward tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams during her Critics Choice speech. After saying she was honored to be in the room with the tennis stars and expressing a love for their game, Campion saluted her fellow nominees — “the guys,” she called the directors — and then circled back to the sisters.

“Serena and Venus, you are such marvels,” she said. “However, you do not play against the guys, like I have to.”

‘The last thing I would ever want to do is minimize remarkable women,’ director Jane Campion said after her remark about the tennis legends backfired.

March 14, 2022

It was an awkward comment at best, disrespectful at worst. And Monday morning, Campion issued an apology.

“I made a thoughtless comment equating what I do in the film world with all that Serena Williams and Venus Williams have achieved,” Campion said, in a statement provided to The Times. “I did not intend to devalue these two legendary Black women and world class athletes. 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,” Campion continued. “I love Serena and Venus. Their accomplishments are titanic and inspiring. Serena and Venus, I apologize and completely celebrate you.”

With final Oscar voting beginning Thursday, the question around Hollywood was how Campion’s wild weekend might affect this year’s races. The New Zealand director has long been celebrated as an iconoclast, a woman whose radiant films meld beauty and barbarism in their depiction of the world and the flawed humans inhabiting it. She’s not slick or calculated, either in her art or in conversation.


That authenticity, widely celebrated by fans and admirers, also can be dangerous when it comes to spontaneous remarks in speeches and on the red carpet.

‘Power of the Dog’ director Jane Campion called actor Sam Elliott’s demeaning remarks about the Oscar-nominated western ‘a little bit sexist.’

March 13, 2022

“You could see both the Sam Elliott diss and the Williams sisters misstep as two sides of the same coin,” said a writer who declined to be named due to membership in the motion picture academy. “She speaks her mind. She’s not rehearsed. And these days, with social media being what it is, that can lead to trouble.”

Social media backlash, though, doesn’t always leave its echo chambers in ways that impact the outside world. The 9,487 members of the academy aren’t, for the most part, members of Film Twitter. Nor were many of them likely watching the derided Critics Choice Awards, which drew just 630,000 viewers and a 0.1 rating Sunday night.

But Oscar voters do like to gossip. And between the two viral moments, Campion gave them something to whisper about as the awards season grinds toward a conclusion seven months after “The Power of the Dog” and other contenders premiered at fall film festivals. (The Oscars will be held March 27.)

“The funny thing is, there might be just as many, if not more, academy members who are offended by what she said about Sam Elliott — or, at least, the way she said it — than the whole Venus and Serena thing,” said an Oscar-voting producer. “She didn’t need to take the low road and respond to Sam Elliott’s stupidity two weeks after it happened. But she’s in the news now ... I’m sure much to the consternation of everyone at Netflix.”

Netflix, which released “The Power of the Dog,” hopes that Campion’s movie will finally win the streamer the best picture Oscar, after other high-profile titles like “Roma” and “The Irishman” came up short in previous years. While Campion remains a near-lock to win the director Oscar, the prospects for the movie remain murky, though a win at the Producers Guild Awards this coming Saturday could help soothe the frayed nerves of the streamers’ executives and consultants.


With Netflix’s “The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion is enjoying her most celebrated film in years. And the long journey makes it all the sweeter.

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The thinking, conveyed by rival studios and some voters, is that “The Power of the Dog” is a movie that people admire more than love. (“And I know a lot of people who just flat-out hate it,” boasted one competing awards exec.) With the ranked choice voting system that the academy uses to determine best picture — voters list the 10 nominated movies in order of preference — the top Oscar sometimes goes to the movie that is most generally liked — or, to put it another way, the least disliked.

That system could lead to a crowd-pleaser like the Apple TV+ coming-of-age story “CODA” winning best picture.

When I spoke with Campion a few weeks ago, prior to the controversy, I asked how she felt about all the accolades and attention she has received for her film.

“You know, it’s better than a kick in the face,” Campion said in her typical blunt, self-effacing fashion.

As the season takes its final turn, she might be reassessing that appraisal.