Also Credited As:Kathy Bigelow, Kathryn Ann Bigelow
About Kathryn Bigelow
Born on Nov. 27, 1951 in San Carlos, CA, Bigelow was raised by her paint factory manager father and librarian mother. She developed an interest in art as a child, painting giant segments taken from the masters when she was 14. After high school, she attended the San Francisco Art Institute where she studied painting and art for two years. In 1972, she won a scholarship for the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum in New York, which gave her the opportunity to study and produce conceptual art that was critiqued by the likes of Richard Serra and Susan Sontag. Bigelow moved on to study film theory and criticism at Columbia University, earning her master's of fine arts in 1979, after having filmed backgrounds for performance artist Vito Acconci. During this time, she made her first venture into filmmaking with "Set-Up" (1978), a 20-minute short that depicted two men beating on each other while a voiceover read an essay on the nature of violence. Though an experimental film with little narrative, "The Set Up" did lay the thematic groundwork for her later work.
After using her lanky frame to model in a Gap advertisement, Bigelow ventured into feature filmmaking in 1981 with "The Loveless," an eccentric and often confusing art film that served as a meditation on the juvenile delinquent movies that were popular in the 1950s. Though off-putting to some, "The Loveless" did introduce the world to actor Willem Dafoe, while earning Bigelow attention from famed director Walter Hill, who helped secure a development deal for her when she moved to Los Angeles in 1983. She made her acting debut in artist and independent filmmaker Lizzie Borden's "Born in Flames" (1983), a bizarre blend of feminism and science fiction. Bigelow became something of a cult figure with her next feature, "Near Dark" (1987), a stylish, atmospheric cross between horror movie and Western of modern-day vampires on the Great Plains that managed to avoid the heavily-mythologized trappings of other like films. Meanwhile, soon after "Near Dark" was released, which sparked a retrospective of her brief career at New York's Museum of Modern Art, Bigelow became the third wife of director, James Cameron.
Bigelow directed her first major studio film, "Blue Steel" (1990), a tense action thriller about a rookie cop (Jamie Lee Curtis) who unwittingly becomes romantically involved with a killer (Ron Silver). Though the film was melodramatic to a fault, it nonetheless allowed Bigelow a good platform to comment on a woman's struggle to make it in a world predominantly occupied by men. In her first collaboration with Cameron, which was released the same year the two divorced, Bigelow directed the character-driven heist thriller, "Point Break" (1991), which followed an FBI agent (Keanu Reeves) who has gone undercover to bust a group of bank robbers led by a Zen-like surfer (Patrick Swayze). While first introducing Reeves as a viable action star, "Point Break" was plagued by a rambling script that ultimately went nowhere, though the film managed to be entertaining enough to be her biggest money-maker to date. Meanwhile, she made the jump over to television, making her directing debut in that medium with a segment of the six-hour miniseries, "Wild Palms" (ABC, 1993), a sci-fi drama about the dangers of brainwashing and technology.
Back to directing features, Bigelow teamed up with ex-husband-turned-producer Cameron for "Strange Days" (1995), a futuristic thriller about an ex-cop (Ralph Fiennes) who deals squids - digital recordings of other people's experiences that can be plugged directly into another's brain. As the world awaits the new millennium, the squid dealer finds himself embroiled in the murder of a political activist killed by his former colleagues. Though the film received some positive buzz at the 1995 New York Film Festival, it failed to gain traction upon theatrical release and died a quick death at the box office, leading to a long absence from the big screen. But Bigelow was hardly idle. Since 1992, she had been developing a feature about the life of Joan of Arc, and at one time had French director-producer Luc Besson involved. When Besson went on to make his version of the story, "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" (1999), Bigelow cried foul and filed a lawsuit alleging fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Rather than face a protracted legal battle, Besson settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Additionally during her absence from the big screen, Bigelow saw her script for the thriller "Undertow" (1996) produced and aired on Showtime, starring Lou Diamond Phillips as a drifter who stalks a terrified woman (Mia Sara) and her lunatic husband (Charles Dance). Turning to episodic television, she helmed three episodes of the acclaimed cop drama, "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC, 1993-99), including one of the series' final episodes. The following year, she was back at the multiplexes with "The Weight of Water," a psychological thriller that interwove the story of a female photographer (Catherine McCormack) who investigates a 100-year-old murder that leads her to suspect that her husband (Sean Penn) is having an affair. Visually interesting and well-acted, the film nonetheless languished for two years after its premiere at the 2000 Toronto Film Festival.
Bigelow next directed Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson in "K-19: The Widowmaker" (2002), an adaptation of a historical event where a faulty Russian nuclear submarine test-fired a missile in 1961, resulting in a leak in the reactor core that almost triggered the sub's payload, and with it, possibly World War III. Made for over $100 million from non-studio financiers, including National Geographic, "K-19" bombed at the box office, making it the biggest independent flop to date. Once again, Bigelow was noticeably absent from the big screen for the next several years. But after directing episodes of the short-lived series "Karen Sisco" (ABC, 2003-04) and "The Inside" (Fox, 2005), Bigelow returned to the feature world with "The Hurt Locker" (2009), an Iraq War drama as seen through the eyes of members from the Army's elite Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit. The powerful film would go on to garner Bigelow the most accolades of her career up until that point, as well as put her in contention for the same Best Director Golden Globe as her ex-husband, Cameron, nominated himself for "Avatar" (2009). Though Cameron won the Globe, Bigelow took home the Directors Guild Award for Best Director in late January 2009, becoming the first woman in history to have been so honored. Just a few days later, Bigelow had the chance to shatter the glass ceiling for good when she was among the five filmmakers nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards. She would go on to win the Oscar, becoming the first female director to do so.
|James Cameron. Married Aug. 17, 1989; divorced Nov. 10, 1991; Cameron produced Bigelow's screenplay "Point Break" (1991); he also produced and scripted her film "Strange Days" (1995)|
|San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco , California|
|Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York , New York|
|Columbia University, New York , New York|
|Nominated for the 2009 Academy Award for Best Achievement in Directing ("The Hurt Locker")|
|Nominated for the 2009 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film ("The Hurt Locker")|
|Nominated for the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Director - Motion Picture ("The Hurt Locker")|
|Directed the Iraq war thriller, "The Hurt Locker"; written by former Playboy journalist Mark Boal; screened at festivals in 2008; earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director|
|Directed Harrison Ford in "K-19: The Widowmaker"; also produced|
|Directed the feature adaptation of Anita Shreve's novel, "The Weight of Water"|
|Helmed a two-part episode of "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC); directed a third episode in 1999|
|Re-teamed with Eric Red to write the thriller "Undertow" (aired on Showtime)|
|Directed the futuristic film, "Strange Days"; co-scripted and produced by ex-husband James Cameron|
|TV directing debut, helmed the second hour of the sci-fi miniseries "Wild Palms" (ABC)|
|Helmed "Point Break" with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze; first collaboration with then husband James Cameron (executive produced)|
|Directed Jamie Lee Curtis in "Blue Steel"|
|Solo directorial debut (also co-wrote with Eric Red), "Near Dark"|
|Landed a development deal with producer-writer-director Walter Hill (who had been impressed by "The Loveless")|
|Moved to Los Angeles|
|Feature acting debut (as Kathy Bigelow), Lizzie Borden's "Born in Flames"|
|First feature as co-writer/co-director (with Monty Montgomery), "The Loveless"; feature debut for star Willem Dafoe|
|Served as script supervisor for "Union City"|
|Posed for a Gap advertisement|
|Short film writing, producing and directing debut, "Set-Up" (a 20-minute-long Columbia student project)|
|Had one of her first "exhibitions" at the Whitney Museum in NYC|
|Lived in NYC variously as a student, artist and filmmaker|