Director Jane Campion apologizes for ‘thoughtless’ comment about Venus and Serena Williams

The social media ire directed toward Campion over her speech for best director stemmed from one particular moment that came after she acknowledged the other nominees in the category, who were all men.

“The Power of the Dog” helmer then said, “Venus and Serena, you’re such marvels. However, you don’t play against the guys, like I have to.”

In addition to being inaccurate (the tennis champions have faced off men), some perceived Campion’s statement as being dismissive of two successful Black women’s accomplishments.

“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 said on Monday in a statement via her representative. “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.”

Campion’s speech — which was for one of four awards her Oscar-nominated film earned on Sunday — began on a positive note, with Campion acknowledging the many “incredible” women present in the audience, including the Williams sisters.

“What an honor to be in the room with you,” she said, specifically addressing the pair, before asking them for tennis lessons.

In her statement Monday, Campion reiterated her “love” for Venus and Serena Williams.

“Their accomplishments are titanic and inspiring. Serena and Venus, I apologize and completely celebrate you,” she said.

It has been an up and down few weeks for Campion, whose film is a strong contender for best picture at the Oscars later this month.

Last week, actor Sam Elliott expressed harsh criticisms of “The Power of the Dog” in a podcast interview, blasting the Western’s “allusions of homosexuality.” The Netflix drama, however, found many defenders in the aftermath against the comments — naturally, its director among them.
“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,” Campion told Variety in response to Elliott’s comments. “The West is a mythic space and there’s a lot of room on the range. I think it’s a little bit sexist.”

CNN’s Hazel Tang contributed to this report.