Mendes shared a story of his grandfather, who inspired the movie, with the DGA crowd for the first time in his speech. “My grandfather inspired this film, and he made me, when I was 12, sign a contract promising I would write a novel by the age of 18. Obviously I’m not a freak so I didn’t do that, but I did do this. So I want to say thank you for him for that.”
Backstage at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, he spoke of how he felt his grandfather was by his side as he made the movie. “I know it sounds loopy but I did feel he was with us on a couple of occasions when I was struggling with it. I thought he was there for support.” The award was meaningful, Mendes said, because “It’s voted for by people who know exactly what I do and that makes a huge difference. For me the whole event was moving.”
In his speech onstage, Mendes also dedicated his win to his daughter Phoebe.
“When I was writing this movie I was alone in my house at night and I was writing the scene in the burning city,” he said. “My 3-month-old daughter called out and I thought, she needs to be in this movie. That’s when I wrote the scene with the baby, and so Phoebe is in the movie. I want to dedicate this to her.”
Mendes, who won the same award in 1999 for American Beauty, saluted his fellow directors in the category, calling out each of them for their work. Mendes beat out Taika Waititi for Jojo Rabbit, Martin Scorsese for The Irishman, Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Bong Joon-Ho for Parasite to take his prize.
He had earlier accepted his nomination medallion from the movie’s stars George Mackay and Dean-Charles Chapman. “One of the great pleasures of this movie was watching these two,” he said.