Bigelow up for Best Director, but still just “James Cameron’s ex-wife”

This is not reassuring. Talented director and writer Kathryn Bigelow has been nominated for the Best Director Acadamy Award. In fact, the film for which she’s nominated got the same number of Oscar nominations as James Cameron’s Avatar. This is fantastic because she deserves it, because only three other women have ever had this nomination, and none of them won it. My fingers are crossed.

But there’s a problem. Bigelow was once married to Cameron. They divorced in 1991. And yet:

Or as the Associated Press’ David Germain put in the lead to his story:

The science-fiction sensation “Avatar” and the war-on-terror thriller “The Hurt Locker” lead the Academy Awards with nine nominations each, including best picture and director for James Cameron and ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow. [bold mine]

I get the sneaking suspicion I’m about to start having recurring dreams of Bigelow winning best director at the Oscars and the TV announcer declaring, ‘This is the first nomination in the category for James Cameron’s ex-wife.”

Does anyone think if this alleged journalist had submitted to his editor a line about “Kathryn Bigelow and ex-husband James Cameron”, the editor would have failed to notice, “Oh, dear God, that’s an insulting way to phrase that! I’m sure Mr. Cameron would be hurt to be thought of as just someone’s ex-husband.”

Kathryn Bigelow is very successful by any criteria – including Hollywood’s. She’s directed quite a few films that have won Oscars. Two of them were traditional blockbusters which made very good money: Strange Days and Point BreakK-19: The Widowmaker was one of those movies that really should have done well at the box office but didn’t – these things happen, but Bigelow hasn’t let it hold her back.

Kathryn Bigelow’s successes came after she divorced James Cameron. I don’t know much about Cameron as a human being, but somehow I think he would not be happy to see her referred to as his ex-wife rather than the successful director she has worked so hard to be. She’s been a director for thirty-one years. She was his wife for two.


  1. says

    There is hope! While I have heard much about Kathryn Bigelow in the past few months, this is the first time I’ve heard that she divorced–never mind previously married to–James Cameron. Honestly. Have never read the two names in the same sentence. That’s… slightly good news, right? It’s not *all* media sources?

  2. says

    Anemone, I’ve heard stories about him.

    Biku, you’re right – it’s not all news sources, and that’s great. I was just fairly appalled to come across it even once. I just don’t think it would have gone to print that way if the journo had done it the other way around – referring to Cameron as “ex-husband.”

  3. Ray says

    I’ve read a few pieces that referred to the fact, but did so in such a way that both are treated as ex-spouses… things like “Battle of the Exes in Oscar Race,” etc., which I think is okay because it’s playing up a human story that may intrigue us. But the way of phrasing it that you post here is… gah.

  4. Scarlett says

    I didn’t realise they were married until I read it in regards to the Oscars – but then, I was 13 when they divorced. I WAS a bit puzzled as to why anyone would bother referring to her as Cameron’s ex when it wasn’t all that important in the context. Does her being his ex have something to do with her talent as a filmmaker?

    Personally, I’m always a bit sus about the personal flaws of someone who’s been married and divorced as many times as Cameron has. Either they’re a lousy human being and their spouses quickly leave, or they’re just not the type of person who suits being married but they lack the common sense to realise that after x failed marriages.

  5. says

    Either they’re a lousy human being and their spouses quickly leave, or they’re just not the type of person who suits being married but they lack the common sense to realise that after x failed marriages.

    Or they are mentally ill and not having the best of success with treatment, as can happen to the best of us – just another possibility.

  6. sbg says

    She’s been a director for thirty-one years. She was his wife for two.

    Ah, but those must have been the most important two, if they bear mentioning.

    Personally, I hope she wins. I haven’t seen either movie, I have this suspicion hers was better on many more fronts.

  7. Scarlett says

    @ Jenn, that’s true. Actually, Cameron’s current marriage – his fifth – has lasted almost as long as his previous four combined so maybe the man’s finally getting the hang of it.

    The thing with Avatar is that I just don’t think it’s best pic material. Visually stunning, yes, and Cameron and his team should pick up as many techical awards as they can carry. But visually stunning is not synonomous with good writing/acting/direction. Neither are bucketloads on money. But I do want to see The Hurt Locker now.

  8. says

    In the week leading up to the Oscars, much has been discussed about Bigelow and her former relationship to Cameron, and I’ve noticed a trend: if the article is about Cameron, then she’s his ex-wife. But if the article is about Bigelow (or female directors in general) then Cameron (who is inevitably brought into the discussion, as people love the drama of the pair competing, as you’ve said) gets referred to as her ex-husband. It’s logical and equitable. Hooray! (One such reference is a very interesting article on female directors in Hollywood, on the website:

  9. says

    That link is coming up as not found, but I’ll take your word on the trend. That’s a step in the right direction, and in this tabloid environment, it’s probably impractical to hope for anymore than that. :)

  10. says

    Thanks, Anemone!

    After reading the article: I really think it’s not just “girly movies” but actual women who are considered a niche by Hollywood. It’s inconceivable that we could want to direct/write/star in a movie that’s not a romantic comedy.

    I recently was telling a friend about being told at film school (and later in the industry itself) that all movies (aside from indies) must feature white male leads when some guy I didn’t know walked up. He gave me a patient paternal look and mansplained that he just didn’t want to see movies about feelings and romance. I glared daggers at him and said, “Neither do I. I wanted to make sci-fi movies.”

    This did not compute for him. He murmured something about feelings and romance, and I said, “I said sci-fi. What part of that don’t you understand? You know, just don’t talk to me, okay?” That last was an order, and he complied.

    I think he actually couldn’t comprehend that even though I have a vagina, I might make traditional action-oriented sci-fi rather than infest sci-fi movies with lengthy scenes about feelings and romance. The irony here: all my scripts were asexual, and MEN in film always insisted I had to throw in a plot-slowing, story-skidding sex scene for no good reason because You Have To.

    • littlem says

      “all movies (aside from indies) must feature white male leads”

      That, to me, was one of the biggest problems with Avatar, which I hated.

      Not only must all movies allegedly feature them, but I had some fairly major problems with the lead’s POV. Let’s just call it Dances with Wolves in Space.

      Also, that film school guy sounds like a real “tune out wimminz voices” type.

  11. Elee says

    When I first watched Aeon Flux, I loved the movie to bits, because of the beautiful imagery and designs, besause there was this cool female badass assassin charakter, because there was a fascinating plot, because it made me happy to see Marton Csokas on screen in a role that was longer than three minutes. The only thing that really bothered me no matter how I tried to rationalise its relevance to the plot was the love story. It just didn’t work (apart from exposition value in the beginning maybe, but the stupid love story overtakes everything in the end), it was absolutely distracting and it irritated me to no end that I couldn’t think of any reason why it would be so major plot point. Still, I thought “a beautiful movie and worth seeing it”. However, after I was irritated enough, I bought the animated series the movie is based on and you know, having seen the original killed nearly all of the enthusiasm for the movie. Because in the series there is no happy love story! The point I am trying to make – having a female director making a sci-fi movie about a strong female charakter appealed to me on many levels, but the romantic subplot, supposedly something that female viewership would appreciate, killed everything unique about it.

  12. says

    having a female director making a sci-fi movie about a strong female charakter appealed to me on many levels, but the romantic subplot, supposedly something that female viewership would appreciate, killed everything unique about it.

    Of course – it’s part of The Formula. Males in film always insist every script not intended for a G audience must have some romance or sex, or it won’t make money. I’ve never seen any convincing evidence of this, but that’s what they insist, and if the screenwriter doesn’t insert it, they’ll pay another writer to hack some in there.

  13. Denis says

    “Kathryn Bigelow’s successes came after she divorced James Cameron.”

    Actually, James Cameron was Executive Producer on Point Break which was produced while they were still married. Also he was a producer and co-writer on Strange Days, made after the divorce. You have to wonder if she would have been given those opportunities if it wasn’t for Cameron. Maybe. Maybe not. She is a very talented director and definitely deserved the Academy Award regardless of how she got there.

  14. says

    No one makes it anywhere in film without connections, so the real question is, if it hadn’t been Cameron, would she have caught the attention of someone else who was already established? I think so.

    Do you have an exact date for the divorce, because that contradicts what I’ve heard, which was that they were divorced by the time production began. And I believe Cameron’s involvement went no deeper than name-lending, similar to George Lucas’ involvement with Howard the Duck.

    • Casey says

      That’s stupid as hell. On E!News and all the other fluffy pop-culture shows on TV, everyone’s talking about Mila Kunis splitting up from her longtime boyfriend, not the other way around! *pulls hair in frustration*

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