The 70th annual Directors Guild of America Awards delivered an evening of laughter and reflection Saturday night as Hollywood continues to reckon with issues of inclusion, sexual harassment, and more.
Held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, inside the same ballroom where the Time’s Up movement made a very visible entry into the world just under a month ago at the Golden Globes, the DGA ceremony offered a few surprises and played tribute to the directors creating the best cinema and television. Judd Apatow was on hand to host, lending his signature humor to the proceedings.
Both Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) won their first-ever DGA awards. Women dominated the television field, with Reed Morano and Beth McCarthy Miller taking home top prizes for their work on The Handmaid’s Tale and Veep.
Each of the five nominees for the top prize of the night (for feature film) received a DGA medallion and spoke about what their nomination meant to them and their project. Del Toro all but cemented The Shape of Water’s Oscar success with his win, as only three victorious directors in the last 20 years have not gone on to follow up with Oscar gold.
Here are the six best moments of the night.
Judd Apatow’s opening monologue and Skype sessions
Introduced by DGA President Thomas Schlamme with the cutting words, “Trainwreck, 40-Year-Old Virgin — not just nicknames for Donald Trump and Mike Pence,” Apatow took the stage to kick off the night with a bang.
In a nearly 10-minute monologue that felt more like a stand-up comedy routine, Apatow took aim at everyone from Matt Damon to Harvey Weinstein to Mel Gibson. “One bad moment where I talk like Matt Damon and explain sexual harassment and I am f—ed,” he began, explaining the pitfalls of his agreeing to the hosting job. He riffed on how Weinstein ruined robes (“Now it’s like the costume of Jabba the Hutt”); mocked Daniel Day-Lewis and male actors who stay in character 24/7 (“Sally Hawkins isn’t mute during lunchtime”); and joked about watching Dunkirk on his phone and his iPad as it was “meant to be seen.”
Much of his humor was reserved for skewering Hollywood’s own failings, particularly the issue of diversity and inclusion when it comes to directing jobs. “It’s a diverse year at the Director’s Guild — the nominees for best film are directed by an Englishman, a woman, a Mexican, an Irishman, and an African-American. No Jews, pretty good, that’s progress,” he ribbed.
Apatow continued to drop one-liners throughout the night (questioning the “awards” given to all the feature film nominees, including the non-winners) and scored big with a particularly funny recurring segment that found him Skyping with other major directors for advice. From chastising J.J. Abrams for Felicity’s haircut to quizzing Martin Scorsese on F-stops, Apatow crafted a hilariously deadpan segment that found some of the biggest names in the business poking fun at themselves. Perhaps the best moment was when he asked Greta Gerwig, “Do you think comedies direct themselves?” and then retorted, “Apparently the DGA does.”
Get Out nomination presentation
The presentations of each nominated film for the DGA’s top honor ranged from heartwarming to overly long to effusive, but the Get Out team nailed it with their humorous, tongue-in-cheek take.
Bradley Whitford in particular earned one of the biggest laughs of the night with his satirical address, saying, “Jordan, my man. I don’t know why you gave me this part. I just want to thank you for shining a light, yo, on the subtle racism of white liberalism and the insidious scourge of racial oppression and cultural appropriation. It was totally dope, my brother.” Catherine Keener continued the gag, interjecting comments about what a terrible person Whitford is through barely contained laughter.
Whitford also had words of praise for his director, saying “A first-time director right out of the gate arrives with a fully formed voice that transcends genre and chucks a cultural grenade while giving audiences a glorious, terrifying ride of their lives. It does not happen. Maybe the biggest miracle of all is that Jordan does it with relentless kindness, collaboration, and joy.”
When Peele took the stage, he rounded out the humorous presentation with an off-the-cuff joke about a potential Get Out sequel cobbled together from guests in the audience. “For what it’s worth, I just signed Garrett Morris and Angela Lansbury to the sequel, Get Out 2: Driving Miss Rosie,” he joked. “Angela plays the love interest, but she also does the voice for the teacup.”
Jordan Peele wins for first-time feature directing
Peele was the odds-on favorite in a category facing off against Geremy Jaspar (Patti Cake$), William Oldroyd (Lady Macbeth), Taylor Sheridan (Wind River), and Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Game). He was the only nominee to also receive an Oscar nomination for best director.
His victory for his work on Get Out was met with a raucous standing ovation, and Peele gave a moving speech about the power of movies and art. First, though, he revealed that The Emoji Movie (earlier the subject of Apatow’s derision) “helped” him quit acting. “I was offered the role of Poop — this is true. I would not make this up. I was offered the role of Poop; I was like, ‘That’s f—ed up.’ I told my manager, ‘That’s f—ed up, let me sleep on it.’ I came back the next day, I said, ‘Well, what are they offering?’ And they said, ‘Oh, well they’ve already given it to Sir Patrick Stewart.’ I was like, ‘F— this.’ That’s a true story.”
Peele then moved into thanking his crew, his cast, and the guild for the honor. “This whole thing is a very surreal, conflicting experience. This has been the best year of my life, hands-down. My wife and I have had a beautiful baby — it’s been wonderful and at the same time, I’ve had to balance that with the knowledge that this is not a good year for this country. This is not a good year for many of us,” he said.
“I truly believe that these stories that we make and these things we put out into the world, these stories of our love and passion are the greatest weapon against the hate and the bigotry and all the evil policies that are being pushed into action,” he continued. “[Get Out] seems like a very cynical vision of the world and it is. But the love that we put into that movie was real. We put our heart and souls, and we did it for the victims of oppression … for everyone that’s been locked up and forgotten about, for everyone who’s been killed in racial violence. This movie was also about reaching a hand out to people who may not have experienced those things but to invite them to walk through the shoes of what it feels like to experience those things. For everyone in this room, what we do is important. What we do is powerful. Keep doing the only thing we know how to do: Use your voice, it’s the most powerful weapon we have against evil.”
Amy Schumer gets “woke”
Comedian Amy Schumer tends to make her political views known through humor, but at the DGA Awards she got serious about real steps directors and actors can take to push for change. She began by joking about how the Childish Gambino refrain of “Stay Woke” from the Get Out soundtrack opened her eyes to many issues of inequity in the industry, but she then transitioned to a more heartfelt and serious note.
“We need to promote women and people of color to the very top positions of power, and we need to do it yesterday. It’s all I’m thinking about right now,” she said. “I’m thinking about the survivors who’ve been coming out and Uma [Thurman] and everybody, and I’m so grateful to them and proud of them. But I’m thinking also about the 50% of people who buy movie tickets who are people of color, and they’re so crazy-underserved because the people with the taste who are making things at the top are all white, and that’s okay because you’re like, ‘But I’m one of the nice white guys. I went to the Time’s Up meeting. I donate. I’m woke.’ But we’ve had it that way for so long, and it’s not working, so we actually need to change things up and promote people right away. Because children deserve to be able to see someone that looks like them in the movies and on television.”
She then urged everyone in the room to visit the website 50/50 by 2020, which not only includes statistics about the abysmal state of inclusion in Hollywood, but offers practical solutions. Schumer called on everyone in the room to add an inclusivity rider to their future contracts, which means “your contract says the cast needs to be representative of the population that we’re actually living in,” among other things.
Greta Gerwig accepts her nomination medallion
Lady Bird star Saoirse Ronan made a moving introduction for her director, Greta Gerwig, saying, “We all know now that more than ever is the moment to have stories told about women, written by women, and directed by women.”
“Women have stories to tell that we can all relate to,” Ronan added. “It wasn’t until I saw the effect of our film and the effect it was having on audiences that I realized how much we were all in need of characters like the ones we see in Lady Bird. How important it is for all of us to be able to go see a film within which we can recognize ourselves, our mothers, our fathers, our friends, and our teachers.”
Gerwig took the stage overcome by the significance of the nomination and the fact that the music playing her to the stage was the overture from Merrily We Roll Along, which features prominently in the film.
“This is a dream come true,” Gerwig said. “I don’t know any other way that I can describe this. Like Jordan [Peele] was saying, I’ve wanted to be a director for my whole life. It took me until I was 20 to actually even say it out loud to myself because it didn’t seem possible, and then it took me another 10 years to start writing what would become Lady Bird. The people in this room, your films have broken me apart and put me back together again and healed me, and storytellers are healers, and I am so grateful to be included among you. … From the moment that Tommy Schlamme called and said, ‘You’ve been nominated by the DGA’ to right now, it’s just been an absolute honor.”
Gerwig ended her speech with an adorably self-aware moment noticing that she was crouching over the microphone. “I don’t know that I need to be leaning down like this, but I end up here most of the time,” she said with a laugh. Then she stood up straight, to much applause from the audience, and ended by saying, “I’m tall and I make movies, thank you.”
Guillermo del Toro wins top honors
Guillermo del Toro took home the top honors of the night, for outstanding directorial achievement in feature film, for The Shape of Water, which he also wrote. The film, which tells the story of a romance between a mute woman and a sea creature in the 1960s, is a continuation of Del Toro’s lifelong obsession with movie monsters — a fact he played up throughout the night.
Early in the evening, while accepting the nomination medallion, he said, “This movie particularly taught me to do things that I was very afraid of — to try. It was a movie that was full of many reasons why it shouldn’t work, and those are the reasons why it works. And for you to tell me today to continue doing this insane fable that I believed in for 25 years means the world to me.” He also thanked his mother and father, adding “Thank you, Dad; thank you, Mom. You believed in me and my monsters always.”
Upon accepting his award, Del Toro spoke more broadly to the need for fables and monsters in our current cultural and political moment, while also looking both backward to the history of film and forward to further potential. “At the time that the Lumiere brothers were recording a train coming into the station, the workers exiting the factory, there was a man called George Melies recording what was not there, what wasn’t possible,” he said. “At the time of chronicle, fable was born. And we are in times that are tremendously difficult. Sometimes, to speak about monsters, we need monsters. And the best way to phrase a longing, a healing, the need for inclusion … I really need a fable to talk about it. So I want to thank the DGA for choosing to reward us and allow us as a genre to come into the conversation.”
He concluded with a call for greater inclusion moving forward, noting his own unique stories as a model for why. “Inclusion is necessary, if not for any other reason but for the fact that we are not hearing all the stories that we do here,” he said. “If films are good, they’ve been great so far, can you imagine if we hit 100% instead of 50% of the voices that need and must be heard?”