Photo of Kathryn Bigelow Kathryn Bigelow

A stylish film director whose background as a painter and Whitney Museum fellow seems at odds with the action-fueled fare she's best known for, Kathryn Bigelow was born Nov. 27, 1951, in San Carlos, Calif.

After studying film theory and criticism at Columbia University, Bigelow launched her career as a feature director with The Loveless in 1982 -- a movie that also marked Willem Dafoe's big-screen debut. She went on to direct Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in Point Break (1991) and Ralph Fiennes in Strange Days (1995), and was briefly wed to director James Cameron.

In 2009, after a seven-year absence from filmmaking, Bigelow garnered widespread acclaim for The Hurt Locker, a taut thriller set in war-torn Iraq. The Golden Globe, Oscar and BAFTA nods that followed had her competing against ex-husband Cameron -- who was also nominated for his blockbuster Avatar -- with Bigelow ultimately nabbing the Oscar (the first woman director to win) and the BAFTA award.

Kathryn Bigelow in Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty

2012 R

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this gripping dramatization -- seen through the eyes of a tenacious CIA operative -- chronicles the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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