updated 01/04/2010 AT 2:00 PM ET
•originally published 01/05/2010 AT 9:25 AM ET
Only three women have ever been nominated for the Best Director Academy Award. And The Hurt Locker’s Kathryn Bigelow may turn out to be the very first one to take home the Oscar.
Bigelow, 58, has directed the Iraq war indie, an intense drama that follows an Army bomb squad and its cocky leader (played by newcomer Jeremy Renner) in Baghdad. As her film, which will be on DVD Jan. 12, continues to rack up awards, here are five things you may not know about the filmmaker:
1. She Was James Cameron’s Wife
Bigelow married fellow filmmaker James Cameron, director of Titanic and Avatar, in 1989 – only to divorce in 1991. But they remain close. “I just talked to him yesterday,” Bigelow told Entertainment Weekly. “I’ve seen Avatar and I love it, love it, love it. I’m honored to be in any conversation that includes him.”
2. She Directed a Tire Commercial Starring Uma Thurman
While she’s helmed 1991’s Point Break and 2002’s K-19: The Widowmaker, Bigelow also directed a hair-raising short for Pirelli Tires starring Uma Thurman in 2007. The 8-minute film, Mission Zero, features the actress in an action-packed car chase, where she drives a Lamborghini Gallardo.
3. She Nearly Didn’t Direct The Hurt Locker
Before developing the war film, Bigelow was about to make another movie based on Erik Larson’s book, The Devil in the White City. “I encouraged her to do The Hurt Locker, because she had gotten that script and let me read it just for comment,” Cameron told USA Today about advising his ex. “I said, ‘Jump out of White City and do this film!’”
4. She’s an Accomplished Painter
Bigelow attended San Francisco Art Institute, where she said her “canvas of choice” was large-scale abstract expressionism. But by the time she went to New York to take up art at the Whitney independent-study program, she moved “off the canvas into environments and sculpture and performance, until I discovered film,” she told TV interviewer Charlie Rose.
5. She’s One Tough Cookie
While shooting The Hurt Locker in Jordan, the 5’11” director persevered through some extreme elements, including 115-degree temperatures. “She’s got those Viking genes,” the film’s screenwriter Mark Boal told the Los Angeles Times. “I’m serious. They live forever, those people.”
The Oscar nominations will be announced Feb. 2, with the winners revealed March 7. As for the three women who were previously nominated as Best Director, they are Lina Wertmüller, for 1976’s Seven Beauties; Jane Campion, for 1993’s The Piano; and Sofia Coppola, for 2003’s Lost in Translation.