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Kathryn Bigelow    

First Woman to Win an Academy Award for Best Director; Known for "Zero Dark Thirty" & "The Hurt Locker"

Kathryn Bigelow is a popular filmmaker known for her incredible visuals and heart-pounding action sequences. In 1979, Bigelow moved from short to feature-length films. She co-created the movie The Hurt Locker in 2008, for which she won an Academy Award for best director-- becoming the first woman to receive this honor-- and directed Zero Dark Thirty in 2012.

Bigelow studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute after finishing high school. Winning a scholarship, she then moved to New York City to attend the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of Art in 1972. Bigelow eventually changed her focus to another visual medium: film.

She made her first short movie, The Set-Up, in 1978. The film explored the topic of violence, which would become a recurring theme in her work. She earned her master's degree in film theory and criticism from Columbia University in 1979, and moved on to feature-length projects. In 1981, Bigelow created The Loveless, featuring Willem Dafoe, which was partly inspired by her love of the 1954 classic film, The Wild Ones. The movie earned critical acclaim, but she attracted more notice for her next effort, Near Dark, a vampire tale set in the American West. In 1989, she released her first major studio project, Blue Steel. Bigelow's next project was 1991's Point Break, starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze.

Next, Bigelow tried her hand at television, directing the 1993 science fiction miniseries Wild Palms. Back on the big screen, she directed the futuristic action thriller Strange Days, which starred Ralph Fiennes. After directing some episodes of the television crime drama Homicide: Life on the Streets, Bigelow worked on another thriller, The Weight of Water, with Catherine McCormack, Sarah Polley and Sean Penn. She then took on a real-life drama with 2002's K-19: The Widowmaker starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson.

Bigelow then went on to create The Hurt Locker, one of her most critically acclaimed feature films. The film tells the story of an army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, led by Staff Sargeant William James (played by Jeremy Renner). The Hurt Locker was lauded by critics for its suspenseful action and realistic depiction of soldiers during wartime. It won numerous awards, including BAFTA honors for best director and best film. Additionally, Bigelow won an Academy Award for best director for her work on the film-- becoming the first woman to receive this honor.

Her next major film project was Zero Dark Thirty. The film follows the real-life efforts to find infamous terrorist Osama Bin Laden and the military operation that ended Bin Laden's life. Jessica Chastain stars as an CIA agent engaged in the search for Bin Laden, and Jason Clarke plays a fellow CIA operative who helps her gather information. Both Bigelow and Chastain have received Golden Globe Award nominations for their work on the project.

In 2017, Bigelow directed crime drama film Detroit, which featured John Boyega, John Krasinski and Kaitlyn Dever. Based on the Algiers Motel incident during Detroit's 1967 12th Street Riot, that film's release commemorated the 50th anniversary of the event.

Speech Topics

An Evening with Kathryn Bigelow: Moderated Conversation


Oscars Still Have Long Way to Go On Gender Equality
Ever since Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 14, there has been a lot of talk about diversity — but most of it has centered on racial disparity. However, there is one group that’s not a minority, but still under-represented in the film world: Women.
Director Kathryn Bigelow on Zero Dark Thirty - TIME
To understand the controversy around Kathryn Bigelow's hit film Zero Dark Thirty, it helps to understand Kathryn Bigelow's kind of movie.
'Zero Dark Thirty': Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal's Unorthodox ...
This story first appeared in the Jan. 10, 2013, issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Shooting in a Jordanian prison, Jessica Chastain burst into tears.

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