Emerald Fennell, Chloé Zhao, Lee Isaac Chung, more lead Oscars race with historic DGA nominations, while Regina King scored a nod for First-Time Director.

By Joey Nolfi
March 09, 2021 at 02:07 PM EST
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Amid a busy week for influential Oscar precursors, the Directors Guild of America has solidified five filmmakers' names in the hunt for Academy Awards — including two women for the first time in history.

The 18,000-strong industry guild — which shares significant crossover membership with the Academy — has unveiled its list of best directors of the year, cementing the five-strong list of helmers' good standing with the industry square within the Oscars' March 5-to-10 voting window (and after BAFTA's shocking slate of disruptive nominees that favored the work of diverse filmmakers over category mainstays).

Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) and Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) have made history as the only pair of women to be nominated by the DGA in the same year. They join fellow nominees Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), David Fincher (Mank), and Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7).

Debut feature directors generating Oscar heat like Regina King (One Night in Miami), Radha Blank (The Forty-Year-Old Version), Darius Marder (Sound of Metal), Florian Zeller (The Father), and Fernando Frías de la Parra (I'm No Longer Here) also showed up in the DGA's first-time filmmaking category, outside of the top category.

The news comes after Zhao's sustained domination of the precursor circuit, as Nomadland debuted strong on the fall festival trail last year before winning big at the 2021 Golden Globes, where the filmmaker became only the second female director — and first of Asian descent — to win Best Director. To date, only a handful of women have been nominated for the DGA's top prize, including Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), Jane Campion (The Piano), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), 2009 winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty).

With strong membership ties to the Academy, the DGA remains a consistently reliable Oscar foreteller. Across the last 20 years, only four DGA winners — Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Rob Marshall (Chicago), Ben Affleck (Argo), and last year's Sam Mendes (1917) — have failed to translate a DGA victory into a Best Director Oscar win.

See the full list of 2020-21 Directors Guild of America Awards nominations below.

Winners will be announced at the guild's April 10 ceremony.

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Theatrical Feature Film:

Lee Isaac Chung — Minari
Emerald Fennell — Promising Young Woman
David Fincher — Mank
Aaron Sorkin — The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chloé Zhao — Nomadland

Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film:

Radha Blank — The Forty-Year-Old Version
Fernando Frías de la Parra — I'm No Longer Here
Regina King — One Night in Miami...
Darius Marder — Sound of Metal
Florian Zeller — The Father

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