George Clooney
Credit: George Clooney: Melinda Sue Gordon

Oscars 2006: Early word on the Best Director race

They split the big prizes at this year’s Venice Film Festival. Now filmmakers Ang Lee (nominated once before for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and George Clooney (who’s never even attended the Oscars) could stand side by side as Best Director nominees thanks to their work in the acclaimed Brokeback Mountain and Good Night, and Good Luck (pictured), respectively. Awards-show mainstays like Munich‘s Steven Spielberg (five directing nominations, two wins) and Match Point‘s Woody Allen (six nominations, one win) will try for a return engagement, as will more recent winners like Jarhead‘s Sam Mendes, Cinderella Man‘s Ron Howard, and King Kong‘s Peter Jackson. A trio of directors who have scored one nomination but didn’t win — The New World‘s Terrence Malick, Memoirs of a Geisha‘s Rob Marshall, and The Constant Gardener‘s Fernando Meirelles — could make the list again. Many of the contenders — Walk the Line‘s James Mangold, Capote‘s Bennett Miller, The Producers‘ Susan Stroman, and A History of Violence‘s David Cronenberg — are shooting for the first nomination of their careers. Then there are the guys who’ve had Academy recognition in other categories but not as directors: Tommy Lee Jones, a past Supporting Actor winner for The Fugitive, won raves at Cannes for shepherding The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada; Stephan Gaghan, who picked up a screenplay trophy for Traffic, wrote and directed Syriana; and Million Dollar Baby screenplay nominee Paul Haggis pulled similar double duty on Crash.