Jane Campion's Critics' Choice Win Soured by Comments to Venus and Serena Williams

Getty / Taylor Hill / Kevin Mazur

“The Power of the Dog” director Jane Campion won the best director award at Sunday’s Critics’ Choice Awards, but her acceptance speech made the moment of victory immediately feel sour. For some reason, Campion decided to use her speech to make a negative comment toward tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams. The Williams sisters were both in attendance, thanks to their involvement in “King Richard,” which is all about their dad and his influence on their tennis superstardom.

At the beginning of her speech, Campion said, “It’s absolutely stunning to be here tonight among so many incredible women.” She continued, “Halle Berry, you have already done my speech . . . and really killed it. I loved it. You’re absolutely brilliant,” referencing Berry’s speech after she received the SeeHer award earlier in the evening.

Then Campion pointed out Venus and Serena, saying, “What an honour to be in the room with you. I’ve taken up tennis – I truly have – and Will [Smith], if you want to come over and give me lessons, I would truly love it. I actually had to stop playing because I’ve got tennis elbow.”

Campion then moved on to address her fellow nominees, who she called “the guys.” The other nominated directors were Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”), Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”), Guillermo del Toro (“Nightmare Alley”), Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”), and Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”).

For some reason, this led Campion to return to 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 camera cut to Venus, who looked stunned by the comment.

In the room, some people cheered, but viewers on social media were understandably extremely upset. Many people called out Campion for being racist toward the Williams sisters, who unfortunately have to deal with misogynoir all the time. Actor Jodie Turner-Smith, who was in attendance, tweeted, “Jane taking time out of her best director speech to tell two Black women that she is more oppressed than them is PEAK white feminism.”

Others expressed dismay that literally a day before, Campion had gone viral for addressing the comments actor Sam Elliot had made toward “The Power of the Dog” that many interpreted as sexist and homophobic. During an episode of Marc Maron’s podcast, Elliot called the film “a piece of sh*t” and said a woman from New Zealand shouldn’t make a western. Campion told Variety on the red carpet at the Directors Guild of America Awards, “I’m sorry, he was being a little bit of a B-I-T-C-H. 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.” Campion called out bigotry when it affected her, but had no problem casually putting down the accomplishments of Venus and Serena, two of the most successful athletes of all time.

After the CCAs, Campion was photographed with Venus at the Netflix afterparty, but it’s not clear what conversation the two women had.

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