Kathryn Bigelow is an artist of singular talent. As a film director/producer, she has crafted a singular body of work that challenges genre norms and offers viscerally stunning portraits of characters and conflicts resonant to contemporary culture.
Two time Oscar winner Bigelow most recently directed and produced the critically acclaimed, multi-Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty, starring Jessica Chastain and written by Mark Boal, which chronicles the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden. More than 200 top ten lists honored the film, which went on to receive five Oscar nominations, including for Picture, Actress and Screenplay.
For Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow won Best Director honors from both the New York Film Critics Circle (the second time only in that group’s history a director has won for back to back films) and the National Board of Review. Additionally she was nominated for the second time by the Directors Guild of America. The film received four Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actress (Drama), which Chastain won; a Best Picture nomination from the Producers Guild of America; and a Best Original Screenplay win from the Writers Guild of America for Boal.
In 2009, her direction and producing of The Hurt Locker earned her two Oscars, for Best Picture and Director. Chronicling an unseen side of the Iraq war while revealing the soul-numbing rigors of the modern battlefield, the film was hailed by Time’s Richard Corliss as “a near perfect movie,” and deemed “a classic of fear, tension and bravery which will still be studied twenty years from now,” by the New Yorker’s David Denby.
The Hurt Locker was written by Boal, produced by Bigelow and Boal, and was honored by critics on over 250 top ten lists. It garnered numerous additional accolades and awards, including Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, a Best Picture win from the Producer’s Guild of America, and a Best Director win for Bigelow from the DGA. The film was nominated for 9 Academy Awards and won 6, including Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay.
Bigelow’s second feature, which she directed and co-wrote, was the stirring, instant cult classic Near Dark. The film was critically lauded as a “poetic horror film.” Bigelow subsequently directed the hit action thriller Point Break, which starred Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. Executive produced by James Cameron, Point Break explored the perilous extremes of a psychological struggle between two young men, and the film endures as an oft-imitated classic action/thriller classic.
With the release of Strange Days, starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, and co-written by James Cameron, critics began to assess Bigelow’s filmmaking in a new light, with Roger Ebert calling it a “technical tour de force,” and the NY Times’ Janet Maslin describing it as “a troubling but undeniably breathless joyride.” In the film, Bigelow explored the unsettling prospects of computer-generated virtual reality and the impending new millennium.
Bigelow then directed The Weight of Water, based on the bestselling Anita Shreve novel, and starring Sean Penn, Sarah Polley, Catherine McCormack and Elizabeth Hurley. Variety described the film as being “Bigelow’s richest, most ambitious and personal work to date; imbued with suspense, benefiting from Bigelow’s penchant for creating a visual sense of menace and an atmosphere of fear.”
Bigelow quickly followed with the big screen action epic K-19: The Widowmaker, starring Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson and Peter Saarsgard. Telling the true story of a heroic Soviet naval crew who risked their lives to prevent a near nuclear disaster aboard their submarine, the film proved to be one of the more critically well-received films of the summer of 2002.
Originally trained as a painter, Bigelow graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute and was invited to study at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. She then entered the graduate film program at Columbia University, where she studied theory and criticism and earned her master’s degree. Her professors included Sylvère Lotringer and Susan Sontag, and she worked with the Art & Language Collective and noted conceptualist Lawrence Weiner. She has also taught at the California Institute of the Arts.
For almost five months in 2011, MoMA honored Bigelow’s work in both film and the visual arts with a showcase and exhibition entitled “Crafting Genre: Kathryn Bigelow.”
Bigelow supports many environmental and animal welfare charities, in addition to the EOD Memorial Foundation, Wounded Warrior Foundation & Naval Special Warfare Family Foundation.