Jane Campion Apologizes For Her “Thoughtless” Comments About Venus and Serena Williams

If you watched the Critics Choice Awards last night, you’ll notice that there was one moment during Jane Campion’s acceptance speech for Best Director where the room seems to go quiet for a moment. The Power Of The Dog director shouted out tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, who were attending because the film about their lives, King Richard, was nominated, first saying, “What an honor 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.” Her remarks were met with laughter, but a moment later, Campion referenced her fellow nominees in the directing category, all male, and added, “Serena and Venus you are such marvels, however you do not play against the guys like I have to.”

The room went quiet for a moment, with some (including Venus Williams) appearing surprised at the backhanded remark. A moment later the room later erupted in applause. But social media reaction to Campion’s remarks was swift and not nearly as generous, with many people calling her out for diminishing the athletes’ achievements and unnecessarily dragging them into something they needn’t be dragged into. The greater problem here, that women directors aren’t as visible or as recognized in Hollywood as they should be, has nothing to do with these tennis icons.

Campion is now responding to the backlash with an apology.

“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,” Campion stated.

“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.”

Campion, who is the frontrunner to win Best Director at the Oscars on March 27, is proof that even the best directors can always use a good editor.

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