UPDATED WITH ALL WINNERS AND SPEECHES: The 66th annual DGA Awards was held tonight at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, hosted by Jane Lynch. The DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film went to Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity. This was his first DGA nomination. Cuaron reflected on his research for the film, which in many ways, focuses on Gravity‘s philosophical commentary on humanity. “We saw all these photographs of earth from space, and it’s absolutely beautiful; hues of greens and blues,” explained Cuaron, “Everything seems so organic (from space). Those silly lines and boundaries we put on political maps, you can’t see that from space. It’s a bizarre experiment of nature, that is the human experience. And it’s what we as directors try to sort out as filmmakers.” It’s worth recalling that while cuaron hasn’t made a bad movie, getting Gravity made was very difficult. Universal kicked it to the curb after Angelina Jolie dropped out. Warner bros took it in, but it was in peril after Robert Downey Jr. decided not to play the role George Clooney wound up playing. the studio looked at several actresses including Natalie Portman, before deciding on Sandra Bullock. It was a real show of faith by Warner Bros, whose movie chief Jeff Robinov championed the project. It has become an outsized global hit, following in the footsteps of Life Of Pi and Avatar. It was this movie that inspired TriStar’s Tom Rothman to want to make his first film To Reach The Clouds, the Robert Zemeckis directed film about Philippe Petit’s groundbreaking high wire walk from the North to South Tower of the World Trade Center in 1974. They are hoping Joseph Gordon Levitt will play him and that production will begin by summer. In the other major film award, Jehane Noujaim was honored as Best Documentary Director for The Square. TV winners included Vince Gilligan for Breaking Bad’s “Felina” episode, Steven Soderbergh for Behind The Candelabra and Beth McCarthy-Miller for the 30 Rock finale.
Soderbergh also was honored with the Robert B. Aldrich Service Award, a surprise that was not on the program. In his acceptance speech, Soderbergh delivered a heartfelt confession. “I didn’t want to join the union. I was forced to join. But I wanted to direct a TV episode and I was forced to join. Then when I was in Louisiana and about to make two films for under $100,000, I called the guild and said, ‘I think I have to resign.’ But then they asked me to consider making the films under their new low budget agreement.” Soderbergh continued to describe how the guild, in appreciating his mastery of indie cinema, continue to come at him with opportunities, i.e. a managerial spot on their indie film council, a chance to run as V.P. — sheer proof that they were adapting to the revolutionary, indie filmmaking times. ” I kept saying yes because I learned how wrong I was about the guild,” said the Behind the Candelabra director, “This guild is incredible and to be in a room with so much passion and a level of engagement, it’s a special place.”
During the ceremony the DGA also honored Vincent DeDario with the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award, given to an Associate Director or Stage Manager in recognition of their service to the industry and DGA. DeDario dedicated his award to his late wife of 47 years, who died three weeks ago. “Without her,” a teary-eyed DeDario said, “this award is bittersweet… I cherish this honor, and I cherish you, Karen.” DeDario, a former actor who segued to directing in 1969, spent more than three decades behind the camera for ABC Sports. His credits are a panoply of notable sporting events, including several Olympics, Super Bowls, World Series, and three Special Olympics. Now semi-retired, DeDario was active for two terms in the Western AD/SM/PA Council early in his career, and has been an active member of the Eastern AD/SM/PA council since 2004. Commericial director Lee Blaine was honored with the DGA’s Frank Capra Achievement Award. A member of the DGA since 1990, Blaine has been notable within the guild for working to increase the profile of directors who work primarily in advertising, having served as chair of the Western AD/UPM Commercial Committee from 1999 to 2012. During his career, Blaine has served as 1st or 2nd AD on several well-known ad campaigns, including the Energizer Rabbit series and the 2007 Budweiser King Crab Super Bowl ad.
Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers shared the DGA Diversity Award. Rhimes noted during her acceptance speech that the award has only been presented four times in the history of the DGA Awards. That fact, as she sees, it tells a lot about the progress made in Hollywood. When the award was announced, the Greys Anatomy and Scandal writer started receiving calls from media outlets wanting to know how she and Beers felt about it. “I was honored,” Rhimes said, but “I was also a little pissed off.” It reminded her of an old roomate and friend who, she related, expected praise for doing the dishes. “(I said) this is not special, what you are doing. You should be washing the dishes. I’m not going to applaud and give you an award for something you should be doing. That,” Rhimes continued, “is how Betsy and I feel about this award.” “There shouldn’t need to be an award. Its very shocking to us that there is much of this lack of diversity in Hollywood in 2014.”
Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond, Anthony D’Alessandro and Ross Lincoln were on the scene tonight, with Mike Fleming Jr and Nellie Andreeva providing analysis of the winners for the live-blog.
66th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film
Gravity (Warner Bros Pictures)
During his nominee speech, Cuaron expressed his feelings about cinema, which were very close to David O. Russell’s, even giving a nod to good, ole Marty, who nodded off during the ceremony. “To re-phrase a line from Goodfellas, ‘As far back as I remember, I always wanted to be a film director.'” When it came to Gravity, Cuaron called upon his friend and D.P. Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, “his co-director.” Cuaron originally promised Chivo that it would be a small film, with about a year’s worth of work, at which point the ballroom camera cut to the cinematographer laughing and shaking his head. “He was skeptical,” said Cuaron. In the end, the lengh of production from start to finish for Gravity was four and a half years. Of the many thanks that Cuaron gave during his speech, his shoutout to Warner Bros was the most hysterical. “After all those test screenings, thank you for not inserting an alien or a monster and for remaining faithful. I don’t know — maybe use them in the sequel,” said the director. In acknowledging producer David Heyman, Cuaron quipped, “Thank you for pretending to know what we were doing.”
Sandra Bullock during her nomination presentation for Cuaron:
“I’ve worked with quite a few directors, but never with quite the collaboration as I had with Alfonso Cuaron,” said Bullock. She talked about how she put her faith in the director, as she spent several hours in a 9 x 9 lightbox with only the sound of his voice. “I didn’t know if he was saying ‘Ice’ or ‘Eyes’,” joked the actress. Turning poignant, Bullock said, “Alfonso gave this role to me when I thought I had nothing to offer.”
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary
The Square (Netflix)
Noujaim was clearly moved by the win. ”This film is the most deeply personal film I ever made; watching my country change. lt redefined my understanding of what was possible. On the inside, if I learned anything, you have to believe in what’s absolutely impossible. For those in (Egypt) who are still fighting on the ground, they still believe what is possible. January 23rd marks the third anniversary of the revolution. We wanted to launch the film in Egypt, but it wasn’t cleared by censors, but it has been pirated, copied and uploaded again and again and 750,000 people have seen it in the last couple of days. I called Ahmed (Hassan), one of the main characters and he told me, ‘I can’t walk the streets! Girls want to take pictures with me! The film has spread far beyond Cairo to villages you haven’t even heard of.’ This is the first Egyptian film nominated for an Oscar and by a woman no less and so this award means so much,” Noujaim said onstage after accepting his award.
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series
Breaking Bad won its first ever DGA Award for its very last episode, the series finale directed by creator Vince Gilligan. It was one of two nominated episodes from the drama’s last installment, including one directed by Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston. Gilligan won over feature director David Fincher who took the directing Emmy for the pilot of Netflix’s House Of Cards.
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Mini-series
Behind The Candelabra (HBO)
“The best way to describe the group of people that I work with is performance enhancers” Soderbergh said when he took the stage.
Steven Soderbergh added a DGA Award to his Emmy Award for directing the HBO film Behind The Candelabra. Interesting to note, Soderbergh originally meant for the Liberace pic to be a feature film, but he could not get it financed and would not have been able to get a meaningful theatrical release, so he took it to HBO and now he has stopped making feature films. He created and will direct the Cinemax series The Knick about a hospital in NY in 1900 with Clive Owen set to star. He chose Cinemax because HBO already had several big series and he had an opportunity to establish that network. This is his third DGA Award nomination. He was previously nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for Erin Brockovich and Traffic, both in 2000.
30 Rock, “Hogcock!/Last Lunch” (NBC)
This is the veteran Saturday Night Live director’s tenth DGA Award nomination and first TV series win. It came for the hour-long series finale of 30 Rock. McCarthy-Miller won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Musical Variety twice, in 2001 for America: A Tribute to Heroes (co-directed with Joel Gallen) and in 2000 for the “Val Kilmer/U2” episode of Saturday Night Live. She was also twice nominated in that category for Saturday Night Live episodes “Christopher Walken & The Foo Fighters” in 2003 and the 25th Anniversary episode in 1999. On the film side, McCarthy-Miller has signed on to direct comedy Mean Moms for New Line.
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Reality Programs
NEIL P. DeGROOT
72 Hours, “The Lost Coast” (TNT)
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Specials
The 67th Annual Tony Awards (CBS)
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/News/Talk/Sports – Regularly Scheduled Programming
DON ROY KING
Saturday Night Live, “Saturday Night Live with Host Justin Timberlake” (NBC)
This is Don Roy King’s first DGA Award in his seventh nomination for SNL, including another episode hosted by Timberlake in 2012. King also won an Emmy for last season’s Timberlake episode, his fourth Emmy in a row.
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children’s Programs
An Apology to Elephants (HBO)
OTHER FEATURE FILM NOMINATION/RECIPIENT SPEECHES:
David O. Russell (American Hustle), presented by Bradley Cooper
Russell expounded on his emotional connection to cinema, “When I faced any times of loneliness growing up in New York, the magical medicinal thing that would return me to the music and rhythm of life, was the cinema. With its emotions and passions, cinema saved my life again and again.”
In describing how movies are a metamorphosis for him, the American Hustle helmer drew laughs for his affectionate knocks on Wolf Of Wall Street director Martin Scorsese, “To walk into a movie as one person for two, or in the case of Marty’s films — three hours later. Seriously! It felt like two hours! He was my great teacher! We walk out as a different person and that’s no joke.”
Then recognizing his Italian-Jewish family as inspiration, Russell said, “I would never have dreamed what would have saved me as a story teller and as a filmmaker was everything that was right under my nose. Everything I heard from my family — the music of my family scattered throughout New York and New Jersey. They’re Russian and Italian. Everything I heard from them at weddings, confirmations, bar mitzvahs — these people are a repository for making my dreams in movies. They enveloped me in their love, music and rhythm and this is especially seen in my last three films.”
Russell rattled off a number of his nominees and peers as mentors in the room, i.e. Spike Jonze, Kathryn Bigelow, Taylor Hackford and Steven Spielberg. In thanking American Hustle actor Bradley Cooper, Russell called him a “collaborator from cradle to cutting room, a transformative actor who I can call my friend.” Others thesps cited in Russell’s nominee speech, were Mark Wahlberg (“an amazing force of nature”), Christian Bale (“from the top of his comb over to the bottom of his fat belly, what’s important is what’s in between”), Robert De Niro (“Thank you, Marty, for him”), and actresses Melissa Leo, Amy Adams (Russell mentioned her name three times in a row saying “Her eyes pour more emotion than any human can absorb”), and “the mighty, fearless” Jennifer Lawrence.
Martin Scorsese (Wolf Of Wall Street), presented by Rob Reiner
Rob Reiner said he was gobsmacked by the enveloping atmosphere that Scorsese created on the Wolf Of Wall Street, no matter how risque. Receiving laughs with his speech, Reiner said, “When the girl sucks that thing out — why just to sit and watch, you pick up a lot of pointers! A lot of directors never get to see how other directors work, and what’s amazing is that Marty works without a net. He’s the most courageous, dangerous and edgy director I’ve seen. I work like a maniac figuring out plot and how to make it fit, but Marty; his characters are the plot, and that’s a very edgy thing to do. The story becomes the characters.”
But the most jarring thing for Reiner was how Marty never yells cut — a rather bold move, especially when actors are improvising. Reiner regaled with a moment when he was at loss for words, climaxing in what might sound like a dialogue among Scorsese-esque wise guys. Said Reiner, “In one scene that never made it in a film, Jon Favreau is telling Leonardo DiCaprio about how to get a plea bargain. Leo doesn’t respond to what Jon says, so I interject (in the scene), ‘Well, Jordan, what are going to do about that?’ And Leo responds, ‘I hear you, I hear hear you.’ And then Marty doesn’t cut, there’s silence, and I (wait and) pipe in ‘I don’t think you hear me! I don’t think you hear me!’ And it dawns on me, I sound like I’m in a Scorsese movie!”
Taking the stage for his nominee acceptance speech, Scorsese thanked a number of individuals associated with film, but it all boiled down to DiCaprio. “He stalked me for five and six years on this picture. He sent me emails, but I don’t have email! ‘I don’t know where it is!’ I told him. Then he sent faxes. And then I finally got the idea of how to make the picture.”
Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), presented by Sarah Paulson
Steve McQueen seemed to have critics who question the visceral quality of 12 Years A Slave squarely in mind as he accepted his medallion, but he also called out, in most polite language, cultural amnesia regarding the history of slavery.
About his decision to make the film, he said “The road toward 12 Years A Slave started with a question. It was about cinema, it was a hole in the canvas of life, the story of the hole was slavery… Why hasn’t this been represented in some form, at least for me, in a real way in cinema?”
From that thought, he conceived of an original story until, prompted by his wife, a historian, McQueen read the book upon which his film is based. “Every turn of the page was a revelation,” he said. “I was so upset and angry with myself, ‘why did I not know this book?’. But I realized no one I knew knew this book.”
McQueen then drew parallels to Anne Frank. “Living in Amsterdam, Anne Frank is always around. She’s not just a national hero, McQueen said, “she’s a world hero”. But, he added, “I found it curious that I knew her book but not his.”
McQueen then noted that despite critiques that the film was too brutal, “audiences in America, as well as Europe, have proved that wrong.” In his acknowledgements, he cited what he called “the courage of my team on this film,” and concluded his remarks saying that 12 Years A Slave “is and always was about love. It has to be about art and love because those are the things that keep me alive.”
Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), presented by Tom Hanks
Hanks drew laughs in his reverence of Paul Greengrass’ tireless, determined directing method, “He’s got faith in hours of rehearsals before the shoot and on the day of the shoot. And I’m taking about 5 1/2 hours of figuring out a scene. You take part in an 11-page script, and we stumble through it. Other directors might assess that process as costing half a shooting day! But Greengrass sees this as what a film requires. Why he shoots and reshoots is a mystery to everybody.”
Continuing to quip, Hanks said, “He’ll ask the actors months on end and on the day of the shoot, ‘What do you think is going on here in this scene?’ We all have our ideas, but I’ll tell you what I think, POW, right here!” At which point, Hanks made a gesture with his hands of a camera close-up of his face.
Turning serious, Hanks summed up Greengrass’ m.o., saying “he reveals the common thing we recognize, no matter what place in the world we are, whether it’s Vermont or Somalia.”
Greengrass stressed the significance of DGA to British filmmakers. “My country has a vibrant culture, but we treat our young directors very badly. For those of us trying to building some sort of protection or coherence in our country, the directors owe a great debt to the DGA. As they are building a global directing community, every director in Great Britan has the DGA to thank.”