Jane Campion is sitting up in bed at her home in Sydney, about to go for her morning swim and reeling from the news that her film The Power of the Dog has received 12 Oscar nominations, two shy of the record 14 garnered by just three films in Academy history: All About Eve, Titanic and La La Land. “I didn’t have a very good sleep, but I’ve had a very good day,” she says cheerily. “At about 2am I could hear the beeps coming in on my phone, and then my partner came in and… Well, he took his time. He was really spinning it out, cruelly. From the look on his face I thought, ‘Oh no, we didn’t get any.’”
But when the numbers stacked up, it was different story. “I’ve got wet eyes,” she says. “I really feel emotional. I guess the Oscars, or rather the Academy, is the gold standard in most of the world’s mind for what’s great in cinema, and I am so full of gratitude that they recognize so many people that were involved in our film. That makes me so happy, because I love the work they did and I think they did a great job. But it’s also special to be amongst just all the nominees, because they’re all great cinema-makers. It does feel like a special moment in your whole career. Like, the last time I was in this position was with The Piano—and that was 30 years ago.” She laughs. “So it’s a comeback.”
Was such a return to the Oscars something she ever foresaw, after missing out with such acclaimed indies as The Portrait of a Lady, Holy Smoke, In the Cut and Bright Star? “I’m quite used to not getting them, so I’m used to both sides of it,” she says. “I mean, I’ve made quite a few films since The Piano, and they didn’t get that kind of recognition, even though I felt like I was trying just as hard. It’s really mysterious what people connect to and what they don’t, and I’m certainly not the knower of that, you know?”
What’s perhaps more surprising is that The Power of the Dog, filmed on location in New Zealand, could very easily have been lost to history. “Covid just came in like a hurricane, so fast, and just shut us down,” Campion recalls. “And we were out of there in no time. we were dreaming about actually just working hard and finishing and then—BOOM!—it was over, and we had to go shelter. I didn’t really know at that point that the film would ever be finished, because we had actors from so many distant countries. I mean, it was a very up-in-the-air time. But, you know, it was also sort of my favorite time too.” Why? She laughs. “Because for once I didn’t have to do anything and I could rest.”
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