Affleck, Bigelow, Hooper, Lee, Spielberg tapped

It’s Benny and the vets at the Directors Guild Awards race.

Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper, Ang Lee, and Steven Spielberg have been nominated for feature film honors at the DGA Awards. All except Affleck are past nominees and winners of the DGA prize.

Affleck (“Argo”), Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Hooper (“Les Miserables”), Lee (“Life of Pi”), and Spielberg (“Lincoln”) have good reason to be optimistic about their chances for Oscar nominations Thursday — even if they can’t be quite assured.

In the past five years, 21 of the 25 DGA nominees have gone on to receive Oscar nominations, thanks to the large overlap between DGA and Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences membership. The only exceptions have been Sean Penn (2007′s “Into the Wild”), Christopher Nolan (2008′s “The Dark Knight” and 2010′s “Inception”) and David Fincher (2011′s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”).

At the same time, only twice in the past decade have all five DGA nominees gone on to Academy Award noms: 2005 and 2009.

DGA feature winners have won the directing Oscar for nine consecutive years, including Michel Hazanavicius a year ago for “The Artist,” dating back to when the guild picked Rob Marshall for his 2002 film “Chicago” but the Academy went with Roman Polanski’ for “The Pianist.” The winner of the DGA kudo has become the Oscar director champ in all but six years since 1948.

While Affleck received his first DGA nom, Bigelow was voted top director by the guild for 2009′s “The Hurt Locker,” Hooper the next year for “The King’s Speech.” Lee has three previous nominations and wins for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Brokeback Mountain.”

“It matters a lot to me because it’s our peers.” Lee told Variety. “We do this job.”

And Spielberg has now been nominated 11 times, winning for “The Color Purple,” “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.”

“The privilege of making ‘Lincoln,’ combined with this absolutely tremendous recognition from my peers, is humbling,” Spielberg said in a statement. “I thank everyone for including me on this short list of extremely unique and gifted filmmakers.”

Said Hooper: “I’m honored to be nominated by the Directors Guild and truly humbled to be in the company of Steven, Kathryn, Ang and Ben. It has been a truly extraordinary year for cinema, and it is encouraging that films like theirs have been met not only with acclaim but popular success.”

Lee and Spielberg are also two of the six directors who won the DGA prize but were beaten for the Oscar in the same year. The 1985 directing Oscar went to Sydney Pollack for “Out of Africa” over “Color Purple,” and Steven Soderbergh won the 2000 Oscar for “Traffic” over “Crouching.”

With today’s news, “Argo” and “Lincoln” became the only films this season to earn DGA, Producers Guild, Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild ensemble nominations.

“I am extremely proud and humbled to receive my first DGA nomination for ‘Argo,’” Affleck said. “On behalf of the entire directing team, I want to thank the Directors Guild for this tremendous honor. I also want to express my appreciation to all of my enormously talented colleagues on both sides of the camera. “Argo” is the result of all our work.”

Added Bigelow: “It’s so gratifying and encouraging to have the support from those who themselves know and experience the challenges as well as the triumphs of making films. I am so grateful to the members of the DGA and for the kind words and support from Taylor Hackford when I received the call.”

Affleck and Bigelow have fared the best among critics groups this awards season and also received Golden Globe nominations alongside Lee, Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”). Spielberg, interestingly, has not garnered a single critics group victory this winter.

Noteworthy exclusions from the DGA list include Paul Thomas Anderson (“The Master”), Wes Anderson (“Moonrise Kingdom”), J.A. Bayona (“The Impossible”), Sacha Gervasi (“Hitchcock”), Michael Haneke (“Amour”), Peter Jackson (“The Hobbit”), John Madden (“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Tarantino, Gus Van Sant (“Promised Land”), Joe Wright (“Anna Karenina”), Robert Zemeckis (“Flight”) and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”).

The winner will be revealed at the DGA Awards on Feb. 2 at Hollywood & Highland’s Ray Dolby Ballroom. Nominations for the DGAs in television will be announced Wednesday, while doc nominations will come Monday.

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