Today we wish a happy 62nd birthday to Kathryn Bigelow, arguably one of the most exciting major directors working today. As the director of The Hurt Locker, Bigelow became the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Director (as well as the equivalent awards at the BATFAs and Directors Guild). Last year, she dodged controversy when she dramatized the killing of Osama bin Laden with Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal in Zero Dark Thirty, her most ambitious film yet and her most fully-accomplished.
Even though she has said in the past that breaking gender roles isn’t part of why she does what she does, it must be noted how successful she has been as female director and how inspiring this is to younger female directors. She is still only the fourth woman to be nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards, and it’s worth mentioning that none of her films before Zero Dark Thirty came particularly close to grossing over $100 million worldwide.
Born in 1951, Bigelow started out directing genre films in the 1980s, like the biker film The Loveless and the vampire film Near Dark, which has grown a sizeable cult following since its release in 1987. In the 90s, she moved to action films, although with a more serious and psychological angle than most. Blue Steel came first in 1990, with Jamie Lee Curtis being pursued by a killer, and Strange Days came last in 1995, incorporating a little sci-fi to a police conspiracy plot. 1991’s Point Break, however, was likely Bigelow’s most popular film before The Hurt Locker. Starring Keanu Reeves as an undercover FBI agent trying to bring down Patrick Swayze’s band of surfing president mask-wearing robbers, it was an appealing mix of ridiculous action and stylish filmmaking. Apparently, a remake is in the works.
She had a couple flops in the early 2000s, but made quite the comeback in 2008 with The Hurt Locker, and continued the streak with Zero Dark Thirty, resolutely sticking by her film amid all the inevitable controversies. It’s unclear what her next picture will be, but, like her career, it will surely be ambitious and forward-thinking, and hopefully people will let her escape from being compared to her ex-husband.