If Jane Campion becomes the third woman ever to win best director but Will Smith slaps Chris Rock, did it really happen?
Oscar Winners Ariana DeBose, Sian Heder and Jane Campion at the 94th Academy Awards. Composite: Getty images/ Rueters /
It was a historic night for women in film. Jane Campion, the revered New Zealand-born Australian director, became the third female film-maker ever and the second in a row to win best director in the 94-year history of the Academy Awards.
Director Sian Heder won the night’s top gong, taking home best picture and best adapted screenplay, for Coda – just her second feature-length film and the first win for Apple. And earlier in the night, Ariana DeBose became the first queer woman of colour to win best supporting actress. At just 20, Billie Eilish won for best original song, and costume designer Jenny Beavan picked up her third Oscar for her work on Cruella.
But in the end a night of momentous achievements was overshadowed by an act of violence between two men.
The mood in Hollywood’s Dolby theatre was muted and shocked after actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage, after Rock compared Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who is bald and has alopecia, to GI Jane.
“Wow, Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me,” Rock said, as Smith returned to his seat. Smith then yelled: “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!” Smith later apologised to the Academy, but not to Rock.
Some attempted to refocus attention on other moments in the three-hour ceremony. The New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, sent her congratulations to Campion, saying: “Thank you for once again putting New Zealand on the world stage, displaying just how beautiful our country is with her talent, her skills and her storytelling. It’s a phenomenal outcome and I know we’re all very proud of her.”
“Let’s take a moment from talking about men not being able to control their rage – because that happens all the time,” one Twitter user said. “What doesn’t happen all the time? Women being nominated, much less winning, Best Director. Congratulations Jane Campion.”
“Jane Campion thrilled she’s no longer the first result when you Google ‘Oscars Serena Williams scandal’,” said another Twitter user, referring to Campion’s Bafta speech that saw her accused of diminishing the achievements of the Williams sisters. Campion later apologised for her “thoughtless comment”.
Campion had already made Oscars history by becoming the first female director to be nominated twice in the category, having been previously nominated in 1994 for The Piano. She did not win in 1994, but did take home best original screenplay and was the first female film-maker to receive the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
With nominations in 12 categories, The Power of the Dog had started out as the 2022 Academy Awards’ frontrunner. However, it slunk home with just one. Campion now joins Kathryn Bigelow and last year’s winner Chloé Zhao as the only female winners of the best director category.