Film-maker Kathryn Bigelow made Oscar history last night by becoming the first woman to pick up the gong for Best Director.

She won for her Iraqi war thriller, 'The Hurt Locker', which despite not breaking box office records, has picked up much praise for its gritty realism.

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Bigelow first tasted success with her 1991 surf-based thriller 'Point Break' which starred Keanu Reeves as an FB agent on the trail of a group of surfing bank robbers. In 1995 she came to prominence again with her science-fiction film 'Strange Days' starring Ralph Fiennes.

Her next big Hollywood film was the 2002 Cold War submarine film 'K-19: The Widowmaker'. Starring Liam Neeson, it featured a Russian submarine commander who had to sacrifice members of his crew after a missile test went wrong.

The 58-year-old beat her one-time husband, James Cameron, to the top prize last night but there seems to be nothing but friendship between the two. After they divorced Cameron produced two of her films – 'Point Break' and 'Strangedays'.

After accepting the Golden Globe for best director earlier this year, Cameron said: "Frankly, I thought Kathryn was gonna get this. And she richly deserves it."