Jane Campion Apologizes for ‘Thoughtless Comment’ About Venus and Serena Williams

The "Power of the Dog" director attracted controversy at the Critics Choice Awards just 24 hours after being praised for her comments about Sam Elliott.
Jane Campion poses in the press room with the award for best director for "The Power of the Dogs" at the 27th annual Critics Choice Awards on Sunday, March 13, 2022, at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Jane Campion
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Jane Campion had quite the weekend. On Saturday night at the Directors Guild of America Awards, where she won the Feature Film prize for “The Power of the Dog,” Campion went viral for clapping back at Sam Elliott over his criticisms of her film.

“I’m sorry, he was being a little bit of a B-I-T-C-H,” Campion said. “He’s not a cowboy; he’s an actor. The West is a mythic space and there’s a lot of room on the range. I think it’s a little bit sexist.”

But the good PR did not last, as she soon landed in hot water when she made a comment toward Venus and Serena Williams during her acceptance speech at the Critics Choice Awards on Sunday night, where she also won Best Director. While complimenting Will Smith on his win for “King Richard,” she mentioned her own love of tennis and addressed the Williams sisters.

“Venus and Serena, you’re such marvels,” she said. “However, you don’t play against the guys, like I have to.”

The comment instantly attracted online attention, with many on Twitter viewing it as strange more than anything else, while others suggested her remark de-emphasized Venus and Serena Williams’ struggles as Black athletes. While it was certainly not Campion’s intention, her words can come across as a condescending insult to the tennis stars’ abilities. More than anything, the comment was an unforced error in the final weeks of a long Oscar campaign, with “The Power of the Dog” widely seen as the frontrunner to win both Best Picture and Best Director. Campion was also attempting to illustrate how she was the only female nominee in a male-dominated category — her “fellow, fellow, fellow” nominees, or “the guys,” as she said.

Now, Campion has released a statement apologizing for the remarks.

“I made a thoughtless comment equating what I do in the film world with all that Serena Williams and Venus Williams have achieved. I did not intend to devalue these two legendary Black women and world-class athletes. The fact is the Williams sisters have, actually, squared off against men on the court (and off), and they have both raised the bar and opened doors for what is possible for women in this world. The last thing I would ever want to do is minimize remarkable women. I love Serena and Venus. Their accomplishments are titanic and inspiring. Serena and Venus, I apologize and completely celebrate you,” she wrote in a statement shared with press.

There does not appear to be any more bad blood between Campion and the tennis legends, as the director was seen posing with Venus Williams at a Netflix after-party following the Critics Choice Awards on Sunday.

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