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Jane Campion has apologized for a “thoughtless comment” she made toward tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams at the Critics Choice Awards on Sunday night that has stirred up backlash online.
“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,” she said in a statement. “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.”
At Sunday night’s Critics Choice Awards while accepting the award for best director, the Power of the Dog filmmaker took note of other women who have broken down barriers, including Venus and Serena Williams, but noted that she still had another obstacle that even they didn’t face.
“What an honor to be in the room with you,” she told the tennis legends. “I’d also just like to give my love out to my fellow — the guys. And Serena and Venus, you are such marvels. However, you do not play against the guys, like I have to,” she said, as the TV cameras caught Serena clapping animatedly in the audience.
Her comments were met with backlash online. The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to reps for the Williams sisters for comment.
Campion was nominated for best director alongside Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza), Kenneth Branagh (Belfast), Guillermo del Toro (Nightmare Alley), Steven Spielberg (West Side Story) and Denis Villeneuve (Dune).
THR‘s awards columnist Scott Feinberg wrote in his post-show analysis that The Power of the Dog is now poised to be the film to beat for best picture at the Academy Awards in two weeks, after winning the top prizes at the Directors Guild of America Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards in London, as well as the Critics Choice Award on Sunday.
In regard to Campion’s comments, Feinberg also wrote: “But this journalist can assure you that no hard feelings were evident after the show, when the Williams sisters attended Netflix’s afterparty, danced and socialized with Campion and generally seemed to be having a blast.”
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