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Filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow has directed films like Point Break and Zero Dark Thirty. In 2009, she became the first woman to win an Academy Award for best director for The Hurt Locker (2008).
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Bigelow again earned kudos for her visual aesthetic. Critics enjoyed the action scenes, but panned the film's weak dialogue. That same year, Bigelow's marriage to Cameron ended.
Next, Bigelow tried her hand at television, directing the 1993 science fiction miniseries Wild Palms. Back on the big screen, she directed the futuristic action thriller Strange Days (1995), which starred Ralph Fiennes. She co-wrote the film with her ex-husband, who also served as a producer on the project. In the film, Fiennes played a dealer of recordings of other people's experiences, which his customers could replay in their own minds. While it failed to attract much of an audience during its theatrical run, the film has developed a cult following. Bigelow also wrote the screenplay for the 1996 cable television thriller Undertow.
After directing some episodes of the television crime drama Homicide: Life on the Streets, Bigelow worked on another thriller, The Weight of Water (2000), with Catherine McCormack, Sarah Polley, and Sean Penn. She then took on a real-life drama with 2002's K-19: The Widowmaker starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson. Set in 1961, the film tackled a historical disaster that took place on a Russian nuclear submarine.
Returning to television, Bigelow directed episodes of the crime drama Karen Sisco and The Inside. She had helped develop The Inside, a crime drama about FBI agents hunting serial killers, from an article written by journalist Mark Boal. She and Boal later joined forces to create The Hurt Locker (2009), one of her most critically acclaimed feature films.
The Hurt Locker was drawn from Boal's experiences covering the Iraq War. The film tells the story of an army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, led by Staff Sargeant William James (played by Jeremy Renner). "I was fascinated by his stories—by the idea that these bomb technicians are always walking toward the thing that everybody else is running away from. It's kind of an epic, lonely walk that only the man in the bomb suit performs," Bigelow explained to Marie Claire magazine.
The Hurt Locker was lauded by critics for its suspenseful action and realistic depiction of soldiers during wartime. A critic for The New Yorker described the film as "the most skillful and emotionally involving film yet made about the conflict ... a small classic of tension, bravery, and fear." The Hurt Locker won numerous awards, including BAFTA honors for best director and best film. Additionally, Bigelow won an Academy Award for best director for her work on the film—becoming the first woman to receive this honor.
In an odd twist of fate, Bigelow was up for several Academy Awards—nominated alongside her ex-husband in the best director and best picture categories. Bigelow took both categories, and the film won an additional four awards.
Bigelow reteamed with Boal for her next major film project, Zero Dark Thirty (2012). The film follows the real-life efforts to find infamous terrorist Osama Bin Laden and the military operation that ended Bin Laden's life. Jessica Chastain stars as an CIA agent engaged in the search for Bin Laden, and Jason Clarke plays a fellow CIA operative who helps her gather information. Some have criticized the movie's depiction of torture and interrogation techniques, but others have praised the film. Both Bigelow and Chastain have received Golden Globe Award nominations for their work on the project.
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