Bigelow, Cameron, Daniels, Reitman and Tarantino vie for top kudo

There were a pair of notable rarities in Thursday’s DGA feature nominations, as Kathryn Bigelow and Lee Daniels received respective noms for “The Hurt Locker” and “Precious” along with James Cameron for “Avatar,” Jason Reitman for “Up in the Air” and Quentin Tarantino for “Inglourious Basterds.”

Daniels is the first African-American to be nommed in the feature category, Bigelow the seventh female.

The DGA selections comprised a mix of low-cost specialty pics (“Hurt Locker,” “Precious”) and three mainstream titles: a sci-fi extravaganza in “Avatar,” a flashy WWII epic in “Basterds” and a quirky comedy-drama in “Up in the Air.”

Bigelow, Daniels and Reitman are first-time DGA nominees (though Reitman was nominated for an Oscar two years ago for “Juno”). Cameron won the DGA trophy in 1997 for “Titanic,” and Tarantino — who’s not a DGA member — was nominated in 1994 for “Pulp Fiction.”

This is the one you want to get, because it’s decided by the people who know what it’s about,” he said. Hackford notified each of the nominees by phone Thursday morning.

I started crying and embarrassed myself in front of Taylor,” Daniels told Daily Variety. “It was a surreal, humbling out-of-body experience. And then I got a call from Oprah, and she was crying.” Winfrey has an exec producer credit on the film.

Daniels admitted he hadn’t expected the nom despite the multiple accolades for “Precious.” “It’s the insecure artist in me,” he added. “I didn’t feel a part of the club, but I guess I am now.”

Should Bigelow take the DGA trophy at the Jan. 30 ceremony, she’d be the first woman to win in the awards’ 62 years. Bigelow, who had just returned from a hike when Hackford called, said she believes the tide is turning for female directors.

I think that the statistics are changing, and I’m very optimistic about the strong, original works by female directors,” she said. “It’s such an honor to be in the mix with all these filmmakers, and I’m looking forward to the day when that modifier about being a woman is moot.”

Bigelow was also grateful that a feature centered on the Iraq war continues to generate traction. “What’s important to me is that the film puts a magnifying glass on an insane situation where men and women are still sacrificing their lives,” she added.

Women previously nominated were Lina Wertmuller (“Seven Beauties”), Randa Haines (“Children of a Lesser God”), Barbra Streisand (“Prince of Tides”), Jane Campion (“The Piano”), Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”). Faris shared the nom with Jonathan Dayton, making them the first married couple nommed. Bigelow and Cameron are the first exes nommed by the DGA.

Up in the Air” is Reitman’s third film. “I can’t even begin to explain how thrilled I am to be nominated by my fellow directors,” Reitman said Thursday. “I wanted to join the DGA from the moment I saw the membership card in my father’s wallet as a kid.”

Among the possible contenders missing the DGA cut are J.J. Abrams for “Star Trek,” Neill Blomkamp for “District 9,” Jane Campion for “Bright Star,” Joel and Ethan Coen for “A Serious Man,” Clint Eastwood for “Invictus,” Tom Ford for “A Single Man,” Peter Jackson for “The Lovely Bones,” Rob Marshall for “Nine” and Lone Scherfig for “An Education.” Animated films, which aren’t covered by the guild agreements, are not eligible for the DGA Award.

The DGA’s award has matched the Academy Award for best director in all but six years since 1948, including last year, when Danny Boyle won both trophies for “Slumdog Millionaire.”

In terms of nominations, DGA tends to parallel Oscar fairly closely. In addition to Boyle, last year’s nominees on both lists included David Fincher for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Ron Howard for “Frost/Nixon” and Gus Van Sant for “Milk.” The DGA selected Christopher Nolan for “The Dark Knight” while the Academy tapped Stephen Daldry for “The Reader.”

The directors branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences currently has 366 voting members, or about 6% of the total membership of 5,777.

Oscar noms will be announced Feb. 2. The DGA will reveal the remainder of its nominations Friday, and the WGA will disclose its screenplay noms Monday.

Complete list of nominees:

KATHRYN BIGELOW

“The Hurt Locker”

(Summit Entertainment)

Ms. Bigelow’s Directorial Team:

• Unit Production Manager: Tony Mark

• First Assistant Director: David Ticotin

• First Assistant Director (Canadian Unit): Lee Cleary

JAMES CAMERON

“Avatar”

(Twentieth Century Fox)

Mr. Cameron’s Directorial Team:

• Unit Production Manager: Colin Wilson

• First Assistant Director: Josh McLaglen

• Second Assistant Director/Additional Unit First Assistant Director: Maria Battle Campbell

LEE DANIELS

“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

(Lionsgate)

Mr. Daniels’ Directorial Team:

• Unit Production Manager: Tony Hernandez

• First Assistant Director: Chip Signore

• Second Assistant Director: Tracey Hinds

• Second Second Assistant Director: Michael “Boogie” Pinckney

• Additional Unit Production Manager: Patrick D. Gibbons

• Additional First Assistant Director: Tom Fatone

• Additional Second Assistant Directors: Kim Thompson, Mirashyam Blakeslee

• Location Manager: Gregory Routt

JASON REITMAN

“Up In The Air”

(Paramount Pictures)

Mr. Reitman’s Directorial Team:

• Unit Production Manager: Michael Beugg

• First Assistant Director: Jason Blumenfeld

• Second Assistant Director: Sonia Bhalla

• Assistant Unit Production Manager: Samson Mucke

• Second Second Assistant Director: Joseph Payton

• Additional Second Assistant Director: Heather L. Hogan

QUENTIN TARANTINO

“Inglourious Basterds”

(The Weinstein Company and Universal Pictures)

Mr. Tarantino’s Directorial Team:

• Unit Production Manager: Gregor Wilson

• Unit Production Manager (Germany): Michael Scheel

• First Assistant Director: Carlos Fidel

• Second Assistant Director: Miguel Angelo Pate

• Second Second Assistant Directors: Jill Moriarty, Tanja Däberitz

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