Griffith name dropped from nod

Steven Spielberg has been named the 29th recipient of the Directors Guild of America lifetime achievement award and the first to be honored since the DGA removed D.W. Griffith’s name from its highest tribute.

“It is truly astonishing that Steven Spielberg, with so many great films still ahead of him, is already such a perfect choice for the ultimate directorial honor,” DGA president Jack Shea said. “Although he is still in the prime of his career, Steven has already won a record three DGA feature film awards and been nominated a record nine times in that category.

“And it is particularly fitting that the DGA, an organization of people who truly understand what a monumental feat it is to consistently direct such amazing films, is paying tribute once again to his immense talent.”

Spielberg won the DGA’s award for directorial achievement for “The Color Purple,” “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” (nabbing director Oscars for the latter two as well). He also received DGA noms for “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “E.T. the ExtraTerrestrial,” “Empire of the Sun” and “Amistad.”

Saving it for speech

Spielberg, who is believed to be close to deciding whether to helm “Harry Potter,” “Minority Report” or “A.I.” for his next project, declined to comment on the announcement. “He doesn’t want to spoil his speech at the dinner,” spokesman Marvin Levy said.

The award, last given in 1998 to Francis Ford Coppola, will be presented at the 52nd annual DGA Awards on March 11 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

The org announced in December that it would retire Griffith’s name from the award, which was first given in 1953 to Cecil B. De Mille, because of Griffith’s fostering of racial stereotypes in “Birth of a Nation.”

Griffith, the son of a Confederate army colonel, is recognized as a pioneer in technical contributions such as flashback and crosscutting, but “Birth of a Nation” has long been criticized for its depiction of the Ku Klux Klan as heroes during the era after the Civil War.

DGA spokesman Chuck Warn said the organization has decided to call the honor the lifetime achievement award, based on a director’s body of work, rather than attach another person’s name to it.

“This award to Spielberg is a continuation of the same honor,” he added. “It’s not as if we’re disowning the previous recipients.”

That list includes Woody Allen, Frank Capra, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Elia Kazan, Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, David Lean, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles and Billy Wilder.

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