Toronto born-and-raised, Bronwen Hughes originally wanted to be a journalist. An avid photographer, when it was time for her to go to university, she decided that rather than study journalism for four years, she would instead study film and photography, then get her master's in journalism. However, she was sidetracked when her work with the Canadian comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall caught Hollywood's eye.
She was offered the chance to direct a $45-million feature film comedy, but pulled out at the last minute, opting instead to direct Harriet the Spy (1996) on a $13-millon budget. Based on the classic children's novel by Louise Fitzhugh and filmed in Toronto, the movie was a success, and Steven Spielberg was so impressed by Hughes' work that he invited her to make a movie for his production company, DreamWorks.
After looking at several scripts, Hughes chose the romantic comedy Forces of Nature (1999), starring Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck. Though it was even more successful at the box office than her first film, Hughes wanted to take on a totally different style of movie for her next project.
Shot entirely in South Africa, Stander (2004) follows the career of a young policeman who becomes a bank robber. Hughes felt herself drawn to the story, which is based on true events, perhaps due to her long-time journalism aspirations. During her 10 months in the country, she researched the story, reviewing Andre Stander's notes and talking to people who'd known him, including one of the men involved, now in prison. The movie debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in 2003, then went on to play at the Sundance Film Festival.
Hughes lives in the Los Angeles area.