Jane Campion and Steven Spielberg are on track for an Oscar rematch, 28 years later

The theme of the 94th Academy Awards should just be “Well, well, well, we meet again.” Best Actor could see Will Smith (“King Richard”) and Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”) face off 20 years later. And Best Supporting Actress could field three Best Actress nominees from eight years ago: Cate Blanchett (“Nightmare Alley”), Judi Dench (“Belfast”) and Meryl Streep (“Don’t Look Up”). But it’s not just the acting categories that may stage reunions. Best Director could set a rematch, 28 years later, between Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”) and Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”).

Campion and Spielberg first battled each other for the Best Director Oscar with their 1993 films, “The Piano” and “Schindler’s List,” respectively. Spielberg, then on his fourth directing bid following ones for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977), “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) and “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” (1982), prevailed for the seminal Holocaust drama, which nabbed a Best Picture statuette for him as well. At the time, Campion was just the second woman to be nominated for Best Director, following Lina Wertmuller (1976’s “Seven Beauties”). She took home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for “The Piano.”

SEE Oscars: Best Director predictions and the state of the race

But the tables might be turned this time. Campion has been the Best Director frontrunner all season for Best Picture favorite “The Power of the Dog,” which hit Netflix on Wednesday following two weeks of limited release. She would be the first woman to earn two Best Director nominations, it would be the eighth time a woman was shortlisted in the category, and she’d be the third woman to win the award after Kathryn Bigelow (2009’s “The Hurt Locker”) and reigning champ Chloe Zhao for “Nomadland.” Campion, who’s already won the Silver Lion for her direction on the haunting Western at the Venice Film Festival, has been sitting comfortably in first place with 71/20 odds ahead of Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”), Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”), Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”) and Guillermo del Toro (“Nightmare Alley”).

In third place is Spielberg, who’s been quickly rising since his refreshing remake of the classic musical and 1961 Best Picture winner premiered on Monday to positive notices. Should he get in, this would be the eighth Best Director bid for Spielberg, who won his second statuette for 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan.” He hasn’t been nominated in the category since “Lincoln” (2012), his last collaboration with Tony Kushner, who adapted “West Side Story.” Spielberg’s last two Oscar players, “Bridge of Spies” (2015) and “The Post” (2017), earned him Best Picture nominations, but those films were never really top contenders for the main prize. “West Side Story’s” glowing reception — it has an 85 on Metacritic and a 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing — put it in the Best Picture top five and Spielberg back into the directing race.

Could Spielberg beat Campion again? Obviously that’s too early to say right now, but if he does walk away a winner in March, he’d join Frank Capra and William Wyler as three-time directing winners. Only John Ford has more with four wins. So if the race does come down between the two of them, it’d be historic no matter who wins.

Oscar odds for Best Director
Jane Campion is out front

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