Despite the fact that her war film, "The Hurt Locker," was one of the lowest-grossing films ever nominated, she beat out Quentin Tarantino ("Inglorious Basterds"), Lee Daniels ("Precious"), Jason Reitman ("Up In The Air") and perhaps the most unusual rival, her ex-husband James Cameron, nominated for the sci-fi epic "Avatar."
In all, "The Hurt Locker" won six Academy Awards.
In a recent "60 Minutes" interview, Bigelow told correspondent Lesley Stahl about outgunning the guys and spoke about the "rivalry" with her ex-husband. "You couldn't have scripted it," she said, laughing.
60 Minutes: Kathryn Bigelow
But it's a friendly rivalry: "There's this whole thing that's going on where people love to, they love to create a headline: 'Battle of the exes,' you know, 'War of the roses.' We were married two decades ago for a brief period of time and we've been friends and collaborators since," James Cameron told Stahl.
Web Extra: Friendly Competition
In the interview, Bigelow said she and Cameron are now such good friends they swapped scripts and early versions of each other's movies.
Speaking about the number of nominations - nine - she told Stahl, "I was stunned, shocked, thrilled beyond belief."
Web Extra: Why This Film?
Bigelow is 58, and "The Hurt Locker" is her eighth movie. If she has a "signature," it's a concentration on tough guys like Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson in "K-19: The Widowmaker," and on dare devils like Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in "Point Break," a movie about an FBI agent who goes after a ring of bank robbers.
Asked in the "60 Minutes" interview about a potential best director win for Bigelow, Cameron said, "I think it's an irresistible story to finally be able to award the very first directing Oscar to a woman and Kathryn, you know, I mean, I'm sure she'll be very ambivalent about this because she'll be of a mind that, 'Wait a minute, I want to win for the work. I don't want to win because I'm a woman.' But I think it's irresistible at the moment of voting, that story."
Web Extra: Outgunning The Guys
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Bigelow will not like hearing that; she hates being considered a "female" director.
"There's really no difference between what I do and what a male filmmaker might do. I mean we all try to make our days, we all try to give the best performances we can, we try to make our budget, we try to make the best movie we possibly can. So in that sense it's very similar. On the other hand, I think the journey for women, no matter what venue it is - politics, business, film - it's a long journey," she said.
Web Extra: A Kathryn Bigelow Film