If you’ve placed an early Oscar wager for Best Director on Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers), Bill Condon (Kinsey), Pedro Almodóvar (Bad Education), Mike Nichols (Closer), or Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), we regret to inform you that your horse just got left in the starting gate. That’s because none of those early contenders made the cut Thursday when the Directors Guild of America announced its five nominees for the annual DGA award, a crucial tool in handicapping the Academy Award race.
Instead, the group gave nods to three veterans of the DGA Derby and two first-time-starters: Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby), who won for Unforgiven in 1992, picked up his third DGA nomination; Taylor Hackford (Ray) got a second nod to bookend his nomination for 1982’s An Officer and a Gentleman; and trying to improve on his previous 0-for-5 record will be Martin Scorsese (The Aviator). The DGA also gave Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) and Alexander Payne (Sideways) their first nominations.
Of the five nominees, only Eastwood was in the running for last year’s DGA award (for Mystic River), though he lost out to eventual Oscar winner Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).
While 50 of the past 56 DGA winners have gone on to add a Best Director Academy Award to their mantels, it’s worth noting that the DGA award and Oscar went to different directors in two of the last four years. In 2000, Ang Lee nabbed the DGA prize for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, while Steven Soderbergh won the Academy Award for Traffic. And in 2003, Rob Marshall (Chicago) was the DGA winner, but the Oscar went to Roman Polanski (The Pianist).
This year the Guild hands out its award on Jan. 29, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.