Oscar Directors: Bigelow, Kathryn (The Hurt Locker)

Kathryn Bigelow is one of the few successful women directors, working in Hollywood today, whose work has spanned a variety of genres: sci-fi, action and horror.

Bigelow was born November 27, 1951 in San Carlos, California, U.S., as the only child of a paint store manager and a librarian.

Bigelow entered the cinema by way of the art world, starting her creative life as a painter. She took up formal studies at the San Francisco Art Institute for two years before winning a prestigious scholarship to the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in 1971. Bigelow entered the graduate film program at Columbia University, where she studied theory and criticism.

Her first short film, “The Set-Up” (1978), is a 20-minute deconstruction of violence in film.

Bigelow’s first feature was a biker movie, “The Loveless” (1982), which she co-directed with Monty Montgomery.

She then directed “Near Dark” (1987), which she co-scripted with Eric Red. “Near Dark” attracted interest from both critics and horror fans for its unusual blend of genres, bringing together the vampire movie and the western.

In her next film, “Blue Steel” (1990), Jamie Lee Curtis stars as a female rookie police officer who is aware of her own vulnerability.

The actioner “Point Break” (1991) stars Keanu Reeves as an FBI agent who poses as a surfer to catch a team of bank robbers.

Her 1995 film “Strange Days,” written and produced by her then former husband James Cameron, failed to attract a major audience. A neo-noir thriller set in Los Angeles at the turn of the millennium, the film focuses on the effects on society of a new technology that records everything a person experiences, allowing others to relive the sensations when they wear the device and play back the recordings. Set against this backdrop is a murder-mystery plot, culminating in a finale during a New Year’s Eve Party involving tens of thousands of extras in and around the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

The film, starring Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett, plays against gender stereotypes, making the lead a weak ex-cop who is heavily dependent on a strong woman. Although the action heroine is a clearly visible type in all of Cameron’s films, Bigelow made this theme even more explicit, dressing Fiennes in elegant, colorful printed silk shirts while Bassett wears suits and more masculine outfits.

Based on Anita Shreve’s novel of the same name, Bigelow’s 2000 film “The Weight of Water” is a portrait of two women trapped in suffocating relationships. The film is a departure in some ways for Bigelow in that it lacks the kinetic action and technical dazzle of her previous films. Like her other work, The Weight of Water shows her continued fascination with families.

In 2002 she directed “K-19: The Widowmaker,” starring Harrison Ford, about a group of men aboard the Soviet Union’s first nuclear powered submarine. Despite an action-packed storyline and attention to detail, the film tanked at the box office.

Most recently, she directed “The Hurt Locker,” starring Brian Geraghty, Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie with cameos by Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes. The film is set during the Iraq war and was written by former Playboy journalist Mark Boal. The movie received its world premiere at the 2008 Venice Film Fest, where it played in competition.

Her TV credits include episodes of “Homicide: Life on the Street” (1997-1998), the post-Twin Peaks TV series “Wild Palms” (1993), and several others.

She also directed the music video for the New Order song “Touched by the Hand of God.”

Bigelow has also modelled for a Gap ad, as well as acting in “Born in Flames” (1983).

She was married to director James Cameron from 1989 to 1991.

Filmography

The Set-Up (1978)
The Loveless (1982)
Near Dark (1987)
Blue Steel (1990)
Point Break (1991)
Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-99) TV Series (Episode: “Fallen Heroes: Part 1”, “Fallen Heroes: Part 2”, “Lines of Fire”)
Wild Palms (1993) TV Series (Episode: 4)
Strange Days (1995)
The Weight of Water (2000)
K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
The Hurt Locker (2008)

Zero Dark Thirty (2011)