Period pix, December bows dominate

Three relative newcomers and two longtime vets were center stage in nominations for the 55th annual Directors Guild of America awards.

Receiving nods for directorial achievement were Stephen Daldry (“The Hours”), Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”), Rob Marshall (“Chicago”), Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”) and Martin Scorsese (“Gangs of New York”).

The pics ranged from fantasy to musical to heavy drama, but all were December releases. And period tales prevailed as only one-third of one film — “The Hours” — is set in present day.

The nominees are also an international mix with Daldry from the U.K., Jackson from New Zealand, Polanski from Poland and Marshall and Scorsese from the United States.

Though none of the five has previously won a DGA award, Scorsese is a five-time nominee and was recently selected by the DGA for this year’s lifetime achievement award; Polanski is a third-timer and Jackson’s nod is his second.

Scorsese’s previous noms came for “Taxi Driver” (1976), “Raging Bull” (1980), “Goodfellas” (1990) and “Age of Innocence” (1993). Polanski’s nods came for “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) and “Chinatown” (1974) Jackson’s previous nom came last year for “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”

Daldry and Marshall are getting their first DGA film nods. “The Hours” is Daldry’s second feature following “Billy Elliot” while “Chicago” is the first film for Marshall, who received a DGA TV nomination for the 2000 telefilm “Annie.”

Contenders failing to make cut included Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven”), Spike Jonze (“Adaptation”), Sam Mendes (“Road to Perdition”), Philip Noyce (“The Quiet American”), Alexander Payne (“About Schmidt”), Steven Spielberg (“Catch Me If You Can,” “Minority Report”), Denzel Washington (“Antwone Fisher”), as well as two foreign-lingo helmers, Pedro Almodovar (“Talk to Her”), and Alfonso Cuaron (“Y tu Mama Tambien”).

Spielberg holds the all-time DGA record for noms (nine) and wins (three, for “The Color Purple,” “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan”).

The nominations, selected among 382 eligible pix by the DGA’s 12,000 members, were unveiled Tuesday by DGA prexy Martha Coolidge at guild headquarters in Hollywood. She stressed the DGA voting has been “the most accurate” indicator of which director will an Academy Award, with winners matching in all but five of the 54 years in which the DGA has given its award.

“We all want to win an Oscar but directors will tell you that this award is nearest and dearest to their heart,” Coolidge added.

Marshall, who was driving when he was notified of the nom by his publicist, said he was stunned: “I’m overwhelmed to be included when it’s such a strong season.”

Marshall said the DGA support was probably due to appreciation by members for the complexities of directing a musical. “Even though musicals look like nothing but fun, it’s as if you’re making one and a half movies,” he added.

Jackson, who is in New Zealand editing “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” said he was pleased to receive back-to-back noms, citing the challenges of integrating multiple story lines on “Towers.”

” ‘The Two Towers’ is the most difficult of the three and I believe people recognize that this film is not just more of the same,” he added. “I’m very appreciative that people didn’t say, ‘We gave him one last year so we don’t need to do it again.’ “

Polanski issued a statement: “Nothing can be more gratifying than recognition by one’s peers. My nomination by the DGA for ‘The Pianist’ gives me the greatest pleasure. However, it would not have been possible without the collaboration of my magnificent crew.”

Daldry said, “I’m very grateful to the members of the Directors Guild, for whom I have a great respect. This film means so much to me, and working with the three greatest actresses of our day was pleasure enough, but the nomination by the directors is more than icing on the cake — it’s a compliment I shall treasure.

DGA noms are selected by feature directors, TV helmers, associate directors, assistant directors, stage managers and unit production managers while this year’s Oscar noms will be made by the 370 members of the Academy’s directors’ branch.

The last split between the DGA and the Academy came two years ago as Ang Lee won the DGA race for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” while the Oscar went to Steven Soderbergh for “Traffic.”

The other divergences: DGA and Oscar winners were, respectively, Anthony Harvey for “The Lion in Winter” and Carol Reed, “Oliver!” in 1968; Francis Ford Coppola, “The Godfather,” and Bob Fosse, “Cabaret,” 1972; Spielberg, “The Color Purple,” and Sydney Pollack, “Out of Africa,” 1985; and Ron Howard, “Apollo 13,” and Mel Gibson, “Braveheart,” 1995.

Last year, three DGA nominees also got Oscar noms: Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”), Jackson and Ridley Scott (“Black Hawk Down”). Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge”) and Christopher Nolan (“Memento”) took DGA nods while Robert Altman (“Gosford Park”) and David Lynch (“Mulholland Drive”) got Oscar noms.

To qualify for the nominations ballot, the DGA requires that the feature originally opened theatrically in Los Angeles or New York before the end of the 2002 and was exhibited for no less than seven consecutive days. Films are ineligible if they are animated, re-releases or exhibited on free TV or pay cable prior to theatrical release.

The winner will be announced March 1 at the 55th annual DGA Awards Dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. The DGA will announce TV and documentary noms in coming weeks.

And the nominees are…

Stephen Daldry, The Hours (Paramount)

Mr. Daldry’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Managers: Jo Burn, Michael Dreyer
  • Unit Production Manager (U.S. Unit): James Bigwood
  • First Assistant Directors: Nick Heckstall-Smith, Martin Harrison
  • First Assistant Director (U.S. Unit): Stephen Lee Davis
  • Second Assistant Director: George Walker
  • Second Assistant Directors (U.S. Unit): Jennifer Truelove, Kellie Jo Tackett
  • Second Second Assistant Director (U.S. Unit): Peggy Jean Robinson

Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (New Line)

Mr. Jackson’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Managers: Nikolas Korda, Zane Weiner
  • First Assistant Director: Carolynne Cunningham
  • Key Second Assistant Director: Guy Campbell
  • Second Assistant Director: Marc Ashton

Rob Marshall, Chicago (Miramax)

Mr. Marshall’s Directorial Team:

  • Production Manager: Joyce Kozy King
  • First Assistant Director: Myron Hoffert
  • Second Assistant Director: Grant Lucibello

Roman Polanski, The Pianist (Focus)

Mr. Polanski’s Directorial Team:

  • First Assistant Director: Ralph Remstedt

Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York (Miramax)

Mr. Scorsese’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Michael Hausman
  • First Assistant Director: Joseph Reidy
  • Second Assistant Director: Chris Surgent
  • Additional Second Assistant Director: Douglas Plasse
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