‘Awards Chatter’ Podcast — Jane Campion (‘The Power of the Dog’)
Jane Campion, the guest on this episode of The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, is universally regarded as one of the great filmmakers of our time, and by many as the greatest female filmmaker of all time. The New York Times has called Campion — whose work dates back 40 years and includes 1989’s Sweetie, 1993’s The Piano, 1996’s The Portrait of a Lady, 2009’s Bright Star, 2013’s limited series Top of the Lake and, most recently, 2021’s The Power of the Dog — not only “a major writer and director,” but also “one of modern cinema’s great explorers of female sexuality” and someone who “has transformed all her influences into films that are among the most impressive being made by her generation anywhere in the world.”
Campion’s films have screened at the world’s major film festivals, from Sundance to Cannes to Venice, and have brought her international acclaim and recognition, including Cannes’ Palme d’Or for best short film (Peel in 1986) and best feature film (The Piano in 1993), the latter of which had never been won by a woman before, and, in 1994, a best original screenplay Oscar and a best director Oscar nomination, the latter of which only one other woman, Lina Wertmuller, had ever received before.
Twenty-eight years later, for The Power of the Dog is the most Oscar-nominated film of the year, with 12 mentions, and Campion is personally nominated for producing, writing (this time in the best adapted screenplay category, having used Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel for source material) and, once again, directing, making her the only woman who has ever received more than one best director Oscar nom. And given that she has already won the best director Directors Guild, Golden Globe, Critics Choice, BAFTA, LA Film Critics Association and New York Film Critics Circle awards, it’s a strong bet that she will become only the third woman ever to win the best director Oscar, on the heels of Kathryn Bigelow and Chloe Zhao.
Over the course of this episode, the 67-year-old reflected on her circuitous path to filmmaking, and the obstacles she faced along the way because of her gender; the personal and professional highs and lows she has experienced, the latter of which have, at times, made her consider walking away from filmmaking all together; and why she often makes films about tormented women, including The Piano and The Power of the Dog.
Campion also responded, for the first time (this episode was recorded last Friday), to recent remarks by the Oscar-nominated actor Sam Elliott slamming The Power of the Dog on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast: “It has to be said, I think, he was being a bit of a b-i-t-c-h, because, you know, he’s not a cowboy either, he’s an actor — he grew up in Sacramento and was educated in Oregon, you know? We’re dealing in a fictional world, we’re dealing in a mythic universe. The West is a myth, it doesn’t exist — Annie Proulx said that — and there’s a lot of room on the range to explore that myth. And this is just another version of it. You know, like, if you think about Sergio Leone movies, where were they shot? They were shot in Spain, and they are some of the greatest explorations of the Western myth ever made. So, you know, I think it’s just a little bit of a crusty cowboy problem.” Campion added with a chuckle, “OK, Sam, let’s meet down at the Warner Brothers lot for a shootout! I’m bringing Doctor Strange [the character played in Marvel films by Benedict Cumberbatch, who also starred in The Power of the Dog] with me!”