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DGA awards Altman the kindest cut of all

Robert Altman, the iconoclastic and influential director of such films as “MASH,””Nashville,””The Player” and the current “Short Cuts,” has been named the 1994 D.W. Griffith Award recipient by the Directors Guild of America.

“There is no living director more deserving of the honor,” said DGA president Gene Reynolds.

“His body of work reflects a versatility that everyone aspires to and few have ever reached.”

A DGA spokesman said the choice of announcing the Altman tribute at the Sundance Film Fest was a natural, as the filmmaker’s maverick sensibility is very much in keeping with the event. It also enabled DGA reps to meet informally with indie filmmakers and promote the org as an ally, not an adversary, of directors who make films independently.

The Guild recently published a Letterman-esque pamphlet –“Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Join the DGA”– which was available at its Sundance reception. Areas covered in it include creative rights, health and pension funds and residuals.

Altman is the 24th director to receive the career achievement prize, the highest honor the DGA can bestow. Past winners include Orson Welles, Billy Wilder, David Lean, John Huston, Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa.

Though oft-nominated in both film and TV categories, Altman has always been a DGA award bridesmaid. He began his career in St. Louis, producing docu and industrial films. Relocating to L.A. in the 1960s, he toiled in episodic TV, including “Bonanza” and “Combat.” After two modest features, was catapulted into the mainstream with “MASH.”

His two dozen-plus theatrical ventures, plus the innovative HBO series “Tanner ’88,” have earned dozens of plaudits.

Now working on the film “Pret a Porter” in Paris, Altman has said he will be unable to attend the 46th DGA Awards banquet March 5.

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