Oscar Directors: Campion, Jane–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography, Cum Advantage (Emmy Award)

Research in Progress (August 18, 2020)

Jane Campion Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: Yes

Nationality: New Zealand

Social Class: Upper-middle; mother actress-writer; father teacher, theater operator

Education: BA in Anthropology

Training: visual arts (painting), Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney 1981; then studied in Australia

First Film: Sweetie, 1989; aged 35 (after several shorts)

First Oscar Nomination: The Piano, 1993; aged 39

Other Nominations: Emmy (Top of the Lake)

Genre (specialties):


Last Film: Bright Star, 2009; aged 55; then TV


Career Output: 7 features

Career Span: 1982-present

Marriage: Second unit director




Elizabeth Jane Campion DNZM (April, 30 1954) the New Zealand screenwriter, producer, and director, is the second of five women ever nominated for the Best Director Oscar and the first and only female filmmaker to receive the Palme d’Or, for the acclaimed film The Piano (1993), for which she also won the Best Original Screenplay.

Campion was born in Wellington, New Zealand, the second daughter of Edith Campion (née Beverley Georgette Hannah), an actress, writer, and heiress; and Richard M. Campion, a teacher, and theatre and opera director.

Her maternal great-grandfather was Robert Hannah, a well-known shoe manufacturer for whom Antrim House was built. Her father came from a family engaged in the Exclusive Brethren Christian evangelical movement.

Along with Jane’s sister Anna, a year and a half her senior, and brother, Michael, seven years her junior, Campion grew up in the world of New Zealand theatre. Their parents founded the New Zealand Players. Jane initially rejected the idea of career in the dramatic arts, and graduated instead with a BA in Anthropology from Victoria University of Wellington in 1975.

In 1976, she enrolled in the Chelsea Art School in London, and traveled throughout Europe. She earned a graduate diploma in visual arts (painting) from the Sydney College of the Arts at the University of Sydney in 1981.

Campion’s later work was shaped by her art school education; she has, even in her mature career, cited painter Frida Kahlo and sculptor Joseph Beuys as influences.

Campion’s dissatisfaction with the limitations of painting led her to filmmaking and the creation of her first short, Tissues, in 1980.

In 1981, she began studying at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, where she made several more short films and graduated in 1984.

Campion’s first short film, Peel (1982), won the Short Film Palme d’Or at the 1986 Cannes Film Fest and other awards followed for the shorts Passionless Moments (1983), A Girl’s Own Story (1984), and After Hours (1984).

After leaving the Australian Film and Television School, she directed an episode for ABC’s light entertainment series Dancing Daze (1986), which led to her first TV film, Two Friends (1986), produced by Jan Chapman.

Her feature debut, Sweetie (1989), won international awards.

Further recognition came with An Angel at My Table (1990), a biographical and psychological portrayal of the New Zealand writer Janet Frame.

Widespread recognition followed with The Piano (1993), which won the Palme d’Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Fest, Best Director from the Australian Film Institute, and Best Original Screenplay Oscar. At the 66th Academy Awards, Campion was the second woman ever to be nominated for Best Director.

Campion’s subsequent work polarized critical opinion. The Portrait of a Lady (1996), based on the Henry James novel, featured Nicole Kidman, John Malkovich, Barbara Hershey and Martin Donovan.

Holy Smoke! (1999) teamed Campion again with Harvey Keitel, this time with Kate Winslet as the female lead.

In the Cut (2003), an erotic thriller based on Susanna Moore’s bestseller, starred Meg Ryan in a departure from her familiar onscreen persona.

Her 2009 film Bright Star, a biographical drama about poet John Keats (played by Ben Whishaw) and his lover Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), was shown at the Cannes Film Fest.  Campion  focused on Fanny’s side of the story–only two of the film’s scenes did not feature her.

Campion created, wrote and directed the TV mini-series Top of the Lake, which received universal acclaim, won numerous awards—including, for its lead actress Elisabeth Moss, a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, and was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.

Campion was also nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special.

She was the head of the jury for the Cinéfondation and Short Film sections at the 2013 Cannes Film Fest, and the head of the jury for the main competition of the 2014 Cannes Film Fest.

When Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan received the Prix du Jury for his film Mommy, he said that Campion’s The Piano “…made me want to write roles for women—beautiful women with soul, will and strength, not victims or objects.” Campion responded by rising from her seat to give him a hug.

In 2014 it was announced that Campion was nearing a deal to direct an adaptation of Rachel Kushner’s novel The Flamethrowers.

In 2015 Campion confirmed that she would co-direct and co-write a second season of Top of the Lake with the story moved to Sydney and Harbour City, Hong Kong, and with Elisabeth Moss reprising her role as Robin Griffin.

In 1992, she married Colin David Englert, an Australian who worked as a second unit director on The Piano. Their first child, Jasper, was born in 1993 but lived for only 12 days. Their second child, daughter Alice Englert, was born in 1994, is an actress. The couple divorced in 2001.

Campion’s films tend to gravitate around themes of gender politics, such as seduction and female sexual power–Campion’s body of work as feminist.

Campion was appointed a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2016 New Year Honors, for services to film.