On this day in 2010, Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first woman to win an Academy Award for best director, for her movie “The Hurt Locker,” about an American bomb squad that disables explosives in Iraq in 2004. Prior to Bigelow, only three women had been nominated for a best director Oscar: Lina Wertmueller for 1975’s “Seven Beauties,” Jane Campion for 1993’s “The Piano” and Sofia Coppola for 2003’s “Lost in Translation.”
Born in San Carlos, California, in 1951, Bigelow graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1972 and later earned a master’s degree in film from Columbia University. She made her feature film debut with 1982’s “The Loveless,” which she co-wrote and co-directed. The film, about a motorcycle gang, starred Willem Dafoe. The next movie Bigelow directed, 1987’s “Near Dark,” was a western-horror hybrid that gained a cult following. She went on to helm 1990’s “Blue Steel,” starring Jamie Lee Curtis as a police officer stalked by a killer, and 1991’s “Point Break,” about bank-robbing surfers, featuring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. Bigelow’s other directing credits include 1995’s “Strange Days” with Ralph Fiennes, 2000’s “The Weight of Water” with Sean Penn and 2002’s “K-19: The Widowmaker” with Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson.
At the 82nd Academy Awards in March 2010, Bigelow’s fellow best-director nominees included James Cameron (“Avatar”), whom she was married to from 1989 to 1991, along with Lee Daniels (“Precious”), Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Inglorious Basterds”). After making history by winning the directing prize, Bigelow said, “I hope I’m the first of many [women], and of course, I’d love to just think of myself as a filmmaker. And I long for the day when that modifier can be a moot point.” Her movie “The Hurt Locker,” which starred Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty, also won Oscars for best picture, film editing, sound editing, sound mixing and original screenplay.