‘The Power of the Dog’: Jane Campion Has Her Stepmother to Thank

The 94th Academy Awards is shaping up to be a game-changer in several ways. The upcoming ceremony has several opportunities to make history. But perhaps the most prominent is in the Best Picture race. If The Power of the Dog wins the biggest prize on Oscar night, Netflix will finally have its first Best Picture winner after years of getting close. So it’s wild to think director Jane Campion owes it all to her stepmother.

Jane Campion and Benedict Cumberbatch sit onstage holding microphones
Jane Campion and Benedict Cumberbatch | Rich Polk/Getty Images for Deadline

‘The Power of the Dog’ is Jane Campion’s first movie in 12 years

A Western drama featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as a stubborn rancher, The Power of the Dog marks Campion’s latest brush with the awards conversation. But she is hardly a newcomer when it comes to Hollywood. In fact, Campion won the Best Original Screenplay for another highly lauded Best Picture contender, 1993’s The Piano. Back then, she also made headlines as one of just a few female directors to be nominated for Best Director.

Although Campion made several movies in between the two, The Power of the Dog does mark her first film in 12 years. That doesn’t mean the director’s fans have been starved for content, however. Campion co-created BBC drama series Top of the Lake, which ran for two seasons from 2013 to 2017. Now thanks to The Power of the Dog, she is back in the Oscar race for the first time in decades and seemingly ready to conquer Hollywood’s big night.

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The filmmaker has her stepmother to thank for her latest movie

Campion fans know she has a varied filmography. But even so, they might be wondering how she settled on The Power of the Dog as her next movie after more than a decade away from the big screen. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Campion’s stepmother introduced her to the 1967 Thomas Savage novel on which the film is based. And it didn’t take long for Campion to become intrigued by the possibilities.

“A book could sit in my bookshelf for maybe two years without me reading it. But I started reading it and the book started with Phil’s castration technique and I thought, ‘Oh, this is something else.'”

Soon thereafter, Campion and her partners looked into acquiring the movie rights to the book. An adaptation was already in the works, and before long, Campion and producer Tanya Seghatchian were attached. The Power of the Dog‘s success with critics and on Netflix puts Campion at the forefront of the Best Director conversation.

Jane Campion could become the third woman to win Best Director

If she wins the Best Director Oscar, Campion will be only the third woman to do so. Previously, Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) took home trophies. The 2022 Oscar nominations also officially made Campion the first woman to ever be nominated twice for Best Director, presumably giving increasing her chances.

Interestingly, the Best Director race could boil down to a rematch decades in the making. Back in 1994, Campion lost the award to Steven Spielberg for Schindler’s List. This year, Spielberg is up again for West Side Story. And though Campion remains the predicted winner, a filmmaker as legendary as Spielberg shouldn’t be counted out entirely either.

The 94th Academy Awards air on ABC on March 27, 2022.

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