History has been made at the 73rd annual DGA Awards. Nomadland director Chloé Zhao has won the marquee prize for Nomadland, marking the second time the DGA has given the guild’s top prize to a female director after Kathryn Bigelow for 2008’s The Hurt Locker.
Zhao, along with fellow DGA nominees David Fincher for Mank, Lee Isaac Chung for Minari and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman, also is nominated in the Best Directing Oscar category.
Zhao used her acceptance speech to thank and honor the work of each of her fellow nominees, beginning with Fennell. “Emerald, you are so brilliant, so daring, and in such control of your craft with a unique voice, I can’t wait to see what thought-provoking journey you’re going to take us on next. Lee, your film touched me on such a personal level. You’re able to show us so much beauty and love in such an honest and authentic way, I think it’s incredible what you’ve done. Aaron, you’re a poet, I can feel my heart beating with yours when watching your film, it’s such a passionate and exhilarating ride, I don’t want to ever get off. David, your film is a masterclass. All your films are. You’re not only a master of the craft, you also have created some of the most nuanced and humanistic performances I’ve ever seen. Your conviction is so inspiring and there’s no one like you.”
“Thank you for teaching me so much and showing me your support,” Zhao added.
The DGA has largely been a perfect bellwether in regards to who wins Best Director at the Oscars, veering only eight times in its 73-year history. In fact, last year was a miss for the DGA in regards to correlating to the Oscars: While Sam Mendes won the DGA’s top award for 1917 last year, it was Bong Joon Ho who won Best Director at the Academy Awards for Parasite. Previous years when the DGA didn’t line up with the Oscars include 1968 (DGA chose Anthony Harvey for Lion in Winter, Oscars chose Carol Reed for Oliver!), 1972 (DGA – Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather, Oscars – Bob Fosse for Cabaret), 1985 (DGAs – Steven Spielberg for The Color Purple, Oscars – Sydney Pollack for Out of Africa), 1995 (DGAs- Ron Howard, Apollo 13: Oscars – Mel Gibson, Braveheart), 2000 (DGAs – Ang Lee for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Oscars- Steven Soderbergh for Traffic), 2002 (DGAs- Rob Marshall, Chicago, Oscars – Roman Polanski, The Pianist) and 2012 (DGAs- Ben Affleck, Argo, Oscars – Ang Lee, Life of Pi). As far as Affleck for Argo, Spielberg for The Color Purple and Howard for Apollo 13, AMPAS failed to nominate those filmmakers during their respective years of competition for those movies.
The other big winner tonight on the film side was Darius Marder, who won the First-Time Feature Film directing award for Sound of Metal. The film is nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture. Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw won the Documentary trophy for Sony Pictures Classics’ The Truffle Hunters.
The show was a mix of live and pre-taped bits, with DGA President Thomas Schlamme quipping at the end of tonight’s virtual presentation, “There were no technical f***-ups, which would have meant they cut to me live…And the best part – you don’t have to drive home.”
On the television side, Susanna Fogel took the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Comedy Series nod for The Flight Attendant, Lesli Linka Glatter took the drama series nod for Homeland and Scott Frank won for TV Movie/Limited Series for The Queen’s Gambit.
In the television variety series directing category, Don Roy King took his seventh overall DGA Award for Saturday Night Live. Thomas Schlamme took the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Specials award for A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote (HBO Max).
Betty Thomas received the Robert B. Aldrich achievement award for her extraordinary service to the guild and its members. She accepted it in her wry style, regaling with her beginnings as a waitress, and her ability to serve.
“This, of course, is a huge honor, and definitely well deserved – I mean, ya know, much appreciated, actually. I know these speeches need to be short, so I’d like to start with my birth. As I understand, there was a high-pitched screeching sound, as I was forced from my comfy womb to breathing air for the first time, an overwhelming feeling.”
“And that’s my metaphor for being pulled into DGA’s service for the first time many moons ago. And who do I hold responsible for this? Why, Gil Cates and Jay Roth,” she added. “If you don’t who Gil Cates is, look him up, because he’s a big reason the guild is a premier union in Hollywood today. And if you don’t know Jay Roth, you don’t know anything about the guild, its history and the politics of negotiations and you might want to find out.”
Thomas said about serving on multiple DGA councils and boards, “I showed up and spoke up. And I hope to continue to show up and speak up for all members.”
“If you want to put your stamp on this union, you have to put in the time,” Thomas added. “I’d like to think that I started my years of service as a waitress, and I hope that I’ve grown in my understanding of what good service is. Although once at the O’Hare Airport in the coffee shop where I was working, an older gentleman of unknown origin left me a $100 tip for a grilled cheese. Perhaps, he was using American money for the first time. Nevertheless, it was the high point in my life of service, until now, of course. Because I see this award as the biggest tip I ever received, and I thank you from the bottom of my waitress heart.”
“Now, anyone want a grilled cheese?” said Thomas, pulling out some plates of the sandwich. “Because I happen to have these. I just want to prove that I do still know how to be a waitress. So, y’all come back, huh?”
Brian E. Frankish was honored with the Frank Capra achievement award, and associate director Joyce Thomas — who survived a life-threatening battle with coronavirus — received the Franklin J. Schaffner achievement award.
Here is the complete list of winners:
Outstanding Directorial Achievement In Theatrical Feature Film
Unit Production Manager: Mary Kerrigan
First Assistant Director: Mary Kerrigan
Outstanding Directorial Achievement Of A First-Time Feature Film Director
Sound of Metal
Unit Production Manager: Amy Greene
First Assistant Director: Matthew Vose Campbell
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary
MICHAEL DWECK & GREGORY KERSHAW
The Truffle Hunters
(Sony Pictures Classics)
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Limited Series
The Queen’s Gambit
First Assistant Director: Aldric La’auli Porter
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series
LESLI LINKA GLATTER
Homeland, “Prisoners of War”
Unit Production Managers: Michael Klick, Philippa Naughten
First Assistant Director: Sunday Stevens
Second Assistant Director: Wendy Bledsoe
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series
The Flight Attendant, “In Case of Emergency”
Unit Production Manager: Bonnie Muñoz
First Assistant Director: Derek Peterson
Second Assistant Director: Jacquie Dore
Second Second Assistant Director: Zach Citarella
Location Manager: Chris Banks
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Regularly Scheduled Programming
DON ROY KING
Saturday Night Live, “Dave Chappelle; Foo Fighters”
Associate Directors: Michael Mancini, Michael Poole, Laura Ouziel-Mack
Stage Managers: Gena Rositano, Chris Kelly, Eddie Valk
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Specials
A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote
Unit Production Manager: Debra James
First Assistant Director: Shawn Pipkin-West
Second Assistant Director: Courtney Franklin
Second Second Assistant Directors: Ni’cole Pettis, Cathy Bond
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Reality Programs
Full Bloom, “Petal to the Metal”
Associate Director: Sean Galvin
Lead Stage Manager: Jimmy Chriss
Stage Managers: Rachel Shimko, Kristianna Laroda, Richard Melendez
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children’s Programs
We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials
You Love Me, Beats by Dr. Dre – Translation
First Assistant Director: Paul Norman
Second Assistant Director: Don Johnson
Robert B. Aldrich Award
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS
Frank Capra Achievement Award
Franklin Schaffner Award
Lifetime Membership Award
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