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Jane Campion

Jane Campion

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Bright Star DVD From acclaimed director Jane Campion comes this gorgeously photographed,... more info $14.99was $14.99 Buy Now

An Angel At My Table: The Criterion... Kerry Fox is luminous as poet Janet Frame in "The Piano" (1993) director Jane... more info $26.99was $39.95 Buy Now

Sweetie: The Criterion Collection... Though she went on to create a string of brilliant films, Jane Campion will... more info $26.99was $39.95 Buy Now

The Henry James Collection... Return to the past with a Henry James movie marathon. The BBC brings acclaimed... more info $49.98was $49.98 Buy Now

Also Known As: Died:
Born: April 30, 1954 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Wellington, NZ Profession: director, screenwriter, camera operator, actress, director of photography, songwriter, editor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

An unflinching director who often showcased a complex and erotic side of women rarely seen in conventional Hollywood movies, Jane Campion emerged from her native Australia as a celebrated and decorated auteur. Following her award-winning days as a student filmmaker, Campion arrived on the scene with "Sweetie" (1990), a stylish and disturbing look at the destruction of a family by a psychologically disturbed sibling. But it was her multi-award winning romantic drama, "The Piano" (1993) that introduced her to a worldwide audience. Passionate, moving and unrepentantly erotic, the film was lauded for its lush visualization of the complex emotions of a woman's sexual awakening. The film earned many awards, including an Academy Award for Campion's screenplay, though the director had great difficulty repeating her success. In fact, several of her subsequent films were rather uneven - though never dull - despite her continued exploration of the power of female sexuality, as she did with "The Portrait of a Lady" (1996), "Holy Smoke" (1999) and "In the Cut" (2003). While some critics may have deemed her work as polarizing, a vast majority praised her originality and willingness to push boundaries, which...

An unflinching director who often showcased a complex and erotic side of women rarely seen in conventional Hollywood movies, Jane Campion emerged from her native Australia as a celebrated and decorated auteur. Following her award-winning days as a student filmmaker, Campion arrived on the scene with "Sweetie" (1990), a stylish and disturbing look at the destruction of a family by a psychologically disturbed sibling. But it was her multi-award winning romantic drama, "The Piano" (1993) that introduced her to a worldwide audience. Passionate, moving and unrepentantly erotic, the film was lauded for its lush visualization of the complex emotions of a woman's sexual awakening. The film earned many awards, including an Academy Award for Campion's screenplay, though the director had great difficulty repeating her success. In fact, several of her subsequent films were rather uneven - though never dull - despite her continued exploration of the power of female sexuality, as she did with "The Portrait of a Lady" (1996), "Holy Smoke" (1999) and "In the Cut" (2003). While some critics may have deemed her work as polarizing, a vast majority praised her originality and willingness to push boundaries, which demonstrated that Campion remained a daring and provocative filmmaker all throughout her career.

Born on April 30, 1954 in Wellington, New Zealand, Campion was raised in a theatrical family by her father, Richard, a theater director and cofounder of the New Zealand Players Company, and her mother, Edith Armstrong, an actress who performed at the Old Vic in London, England. Displaying an early aptitude for art, she developed an eye for the unusual and idiosyncratic, which was later manifested in her later films. Although interested in acting, Campion decided to earn her bachelor's degree in anthropology while attending Victoria University in Wellington. After graduating, she tried pursuing her artistic ambitions in Venice and London, but wound up studying painting at the Sydney College of the Arts in Australia, where she began to experiment with film, shooting her first short, "Tissues" (1979), about a father who had been arrested for child molestation. Moving on to the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, Campion made several award-winning shorts, including "Peel" (1982), which centered on a power struggle over discipline between a child and his father. The nine-minute short won the Palme d'Or for Best Short Film at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival. For her senior thesis, she directed "A Girl's Own Story" (1984), which introduced the themes of women, sexuality and rites of passage that were prevalent in her later work.

While in school, Campion worked with the Women's Film Unit, a government-sponsored program for whom she directed "After Hours" (1984), a short film about a female office worker who is fired from her job after claiming sexual harassment by her boss. After a detour into television with "Two Friends" (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1986), Campion made her feature debut with the darkly stylish "Sweetie" (1990), a disturbing study of familial tensions brought about by a mentally unstable young woman (Genevieve Lemon). Acclaimed for its visual style, strong performances and comic originality, "Sweetie" earned the Best Film prize from the Australian Critics Awards while winning an Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Feature. Campion's second feature, "An Angel at My Table" (1991), was originally intended as a television movie. Working from a script by Laura Jones, which was adapted from the autobiography of New Zealand writer Janet Frame, Campion fashioned a biopic that detailed an unconventional story. Tracing Frame from her awkward childhood through a nervous breakdown, which resulted in stays at mental institutions, to her eventual fulfillment as a writer, Campion once again displayed a flair for observant detail and lush visuals. The film was an intimate look at an atypical central figure - a shy, plain woman who sought to define herself through her writing.

When she was fresh out of film school in 1984, Campion began working on a screenplay about the colonial past of New Zealand. Over nearly a decade, she developed the project into what became her most acclaimed feature to date, "The Piano" (1993), an intensely erotic story told from a female perspective. The story was fairly simplistic: a mute woman, Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter), enters into an arranged marriage and moves halfway around the world to the New Zealand wilderness with her illegitimate, but strong-willed daughter (Anna Paquin) and her piano. Her new husband (Sam Neill) refuses to transport the instrument and sells it instead to George Baines, a settler gone native (Harvey Keitel). But George agrees to return the piano if Ada teaches him how to play, which results in increasingly charged sexual encounters. Once again, Campion's hallmarks of gorgeous photography - the landscape almost became another character - and strong performances aligned to produce a remarkably original Gothic drama. "The Piano" earned numerous awards, including the Palme d'Or at Cannes - the first for a female director. Campion also became only the second woman nominated for the Best Director Oscar. Although she lost in that category, she did win for Best Original Screenplay, as did Hunter for Best Actress and Paquin for Best Supporting Actress.

Campion's long awaited follow-up was an adaptation of Henry James' novel, "The Portrait of a Lady" (1996), written by Laura Jones and starring Nicole Kidman. Despite initial promise, critics were divided upon its release. Some found the film static and miscast, while others praised its intelligence and the director's injection of sexual matters only hinted at in James' novel. With a poor showing at the box office to go along with the mixed critical reaction, Campion suffered the first chink in her armor. She next collaborated with her sister, Anna, to co-write the screenplay for her next directing effort, "Holy Smoke" (1999), a satirical drama in which an Australian family hires a noted cult deprogrammer (Harvey Keitel) to retrieve and restore their errant daughter (Kate Winslet) from an Indian guru. Their subsequent battle of wills, which Campion once again amplifies with an overpowering sexual component, drove the always compelling narrative. While the film started on a promising note, with Campion joining forces with another fearless actress, the ultimate execution was flawed, murky and ultimately unsatisfying.

A planned reunion with Nicole Kidman was in store for Campion's next effort, "In the Cut" (2003), an adaptation of Susanna Moore's novel. But the in-demand actress required Kidman to cede the role to another. Campion cast a maturing Meg Ryan - who was looking to break out of her stereotypical adorable roles - as a troubled New York writing professor who, after getting involved in a crime, becomes embroiled in an erotic and dangerous affair with a police detective (Mark Ruffalo). Once again, Campion put the psychosexual politics of her characters in sharp relief and had a willing collaborator in Ryan, who gamely agreed to a controversial full-frontal nude scene. But again, the outcome was uneven, with the director's singular vision bogged down by the conventional thriller elements that were grafted onto the story. After writing and directing the 17-minute short, "The Water Diary" (2006), which was shown at Cannes, Campion made a surprisingly tame romantic drama, "Bright Star" (2009), which detailed the brief three-year affair between Fanny Browne (Abbie Cornish) and English poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw), who died tragically from the effects of tuberculosis at the age of 25.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Bright Star (2009)
3.
4.
  In the Cut (2003) Director
5.
  Holy Smoke (1999) Director
6.
  Portrait of A Lady, The (1996) Director
7.
  The Piano (1993) Director
8.
  Angel At My Table, An (1990) Director
9.
  Sweetie (1989) Director
10.
  Two Friends (1986) Director

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Audition, The (1989)
4.
 Intimate Portrait: Holly Hunter (2000) Interviewee
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Moved to London after graduating from college where she worked as an assistant to a documentary filmmaker
1979:
Directed first short film, "Tissues," while a student at Sydney College of the Arts
:
Attended the Australian Film Television and Radio School
1982:
Made first short film, "Peel"; also wrote and edited
1983:
Directed the short film, "Passionless Moments"
1984:
Directed the short film "After Hours" for the Women's Film Unit in Australia
1984:
Shot her thesis film, "Girls Own Story"
1985:
Directed first Australian TV-movie, "Two Friends"
1989:
Made feature directing debut with "Sweetie"; also co-wrote with Gerald Lee
1990:
Helmed second feature, "Angel at My Table"
1990:
Acted opposite her mother Edith Armstrong in the comedy short, "The Audition"; directed by her sister Anne Campion
1993:
Received International acclaim for directing "The Piano"; also wrote
:
Formed Big Shell Films with her husband Colin Englert
1996:
Directed Nicole Kidman in "The Portrait of a Lady"; based on a Henry James novel
1999:
Directed and co-wrote (with sister Anna) "Holy Smoke"; starred Harvey Keitel and Kate Winslet
2003:
Directed Meg Ryan in the erotic thriller, "In the Cut"; also wrote
2008:
Wrote and directed the 17-minute segment, "The Water Diary" for an eight-part feature titled "8"
2009:
Debuted her film "Bright Star" at the Cannes Film Festival
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Victoria University: - 1975
Sydney College of the Arts: - 1979
Australian Film Television and Radio School: - 1984

Notes

"I'm really interested in issues of love and superstition--family love, romantic love, reality and illusion, New Age-ism, misconceptions of New Age-ism. . . I'm interested in all those things. But when I write, I don't think like this. I just think, 'What would be fun to have happen next?' I think in a playful way, and then later I try to examine what's happened." --Jane Campion in PREMIERE, March 1990

"I think she really writes about what is exquisite in human beings but not necessarily about the perfection. She writes about the things that are hard to come to terms with in us and those things may be good and the may have elements of evil, or they may have elements of desire." --Holly Hunter, on the the lyrical writings of Jane Campion, quoted in FILMMAKER, Fall 1993

"Jane is Isabel Archer--but she's also Madame Merle. She's reasonably manipulative. She is intensely competitive. She has always managed to get what she's wanted. She will do absolutely what she wants to do, in her life and in her movies" --"The Portrait of a Lady" star Nicole Kidman on her friend Jane Campion, quoted in "Heroine Chic" by Howard Feinstein in VANITY FAIR, December 1996

"Here is the key to her personality and way of working--the conspiracy of great friendship that has its own secrets." --actor Richard E Grant quoted in VANITY FAIR, December 1996

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Gerard Lee. Director, screenwriter. Co-directed "Passionless Moments" with Campion and co-wrote screenplay for "Sweetie"; met at film school.
companion:
Billy MacKinnon. Producer, screenwriter. Scottish; younger brother of director Gillies MacKinnon; co-producer of "Sweetie" and script editor on "The Piano"; together in late 1980s to early 1990s.
husband:
Colin Englert. Director, producer. Served as second-unit director for "The Piano" (1993).

Family close complete family listing

father:
Richard Campion. Director. Co-founder of the New Zealand Players (a theater company) with Edith Campion; divorced after nearly 40 years of marriage.
mother:
Edith Armstrong. Actor. Co-founded the New Zealand Players; was both an heiress and an orphan; met Campion's father at university; the two later studied at the Old Vic together before founding theatre company; divorced after nearly 40 years of marriage.
sister:
Anna Campion. Actor, director. Older; born c. 1952.
brother:
Michael Campion. Born c. 1961.
son:
Jasper Englert. Born in June 1993; delivered by emergency Caesarean section; died twelve days after birth; father, Colin Englert.
daughter:
Alice Englert. Born c. 1994; father, Colin Englert.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Holy Smoke" Miramax/Hyperion

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