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Directors dance over ‘Chicago’

Guild taps first-time helmer Marshall

This article was corrected on March 5, 2003.

First-time feature helmer Rob Marshall captured the Directors Guild of America award for outstanding achievement Saturday night for the high-kicking tuner “Chicago.”

“I am overwhelmed,” an elated Marshall told an audience of about 1,000 at the 55th Annual Directors Guild of America awards ceremonies at the Century Plaza Hotel. The victory, coupled with “Chicago” producer Martin Richards’ win at the Producers Guild awards, provides a double dose of Academy Award momentum for the Miramax musical .

The helmer, beat out Stephen Daldry for “The Hours,” Peter Jackson for “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” Roman Polanski for “The Pianist” and Martin Scorsese for “Gangs of New York.”

Marshall’s victory caught many in the audience off guard, since Polanski had already been awarded best director nods by BAFTA and the National Society of Film Critics, while Scorsese had won the Golden Globe and was to receive a DGA Lifetime Achievement Award a few minutes later, in the capper to the evening’s ceremonies.

But Marshall’s victory makes him a clear front-runner for the Academy Award for director, since the DGA winner has matched the Oscar winner in 49 of the last 54 years — including last year, when Ron Howard copped both trophies for “A Beautiful Mind.” As is traditional, Howard made the presentation Saturday to Marshall.

The last time the helmers and Oscar split was two years ago, when the DGA tapped Ang Lee for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences selected Stephen Soderbergh for “Traffic.” In 1995, Howard took the DGA Award for “Apollo 13” but was not nominated for the Oscar, which was won by Mel Gibson for “Braveheart.”

Daldry, Marshall, Polanski and Scorsese have been nominated for the directing Oscar along with Pedro Almodovar for “Talk to Her.”

Broadway baby

The DGA kudos are selected by the Guild’s 12,000 members, which include directors, assistant directors and unit production managers, while the AMPAS directors branch comprises 364 members.

Marshall, who appeared stunned by the victory, first credited “Chicago’s” 1975 Broadway director and choreographer Bob Fosse, along with John Kander and Fred Ebb, who wrote the original musical with Fosse. He also cited prominent musical helmers Vincent Minelli, Stanley Donen, Robert Wise and Herbert Ross along with thesp-dancer Gene Kelly.

“I stand here because of them,” Marshall said. He then offered kudos to the cast and Miramax exec Harvey Weinstein. Following the success of last year’s “Moulin Rouge,” “Chicago” has revived Hollywood interest in the musical genre as it has topped $105 million in domestic grosses and received 13 Oscar nominations.

Marshall, who made his reputation on Broadway before taking on “Chicago,” also said the themes of crime and celebrity from the darkly comic musical continue to be “timely and powerful” for audiences.

Roman’s holiday

Earlier in the ceremonies, “Chicago” star and Oscar contender Renee Zellweger presented Marshall with a nomination award and told him, “Bob Fosse would be proud.”

Daldry, Jackson and Scorsese also attended while Polanski, who has remained outside the United States due to a sexual assault conviction, sent a videotaped greeting shot by his daughter while both were in the Swiss Alps. The message concluded with Polanski skiing down a mountain slope.

In accepting his lifetime achievement award from Steven Spielberg at the close of the evening, Scorsese stressed the collaborative nature of work in film and the need for filmmakers to preserve history. He also underscored the importance of foreign films, noting, “It’s the very nature of movies to bring us together.”

More Fosse fuss

In another possible signal of the reviving interest in musicals, Matthew Diamond picked up the TV musical variety award for “From Broadway: Fosse” presentation on PBS’ “Great Performances: Dance in America.”

HBO dominated in major TV awards, with Bryan Gordon winning in comedy series for the “Special Section” episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” John Patterson taking the drama series award for the “Whitecaps” episode of “The Sopranos” and Mick Jackson taking the TV movie award for “Live From Baghdad.”

Gordon noted that Scorsese played himself in the winning “Curb” episode, in which he became exasperated with the neurotic behavior of star Larry David. Gordon quipped, “Martin Scorsese was a true joy to work with even though he could not hit his marks.”

Scott McKinsey won daytime serials for ABC’s “Port Charles” and Guy Ferland took the children’s program award for Showtime’s “Bang Bang You’re Dead.”

Baker Smith took the commercial trophy and Tasha Oldham won for “The Smith Family” in the documentary category. Michael Moore’s hit “Bowling for Columbine” was not among the nominated documentaries.

Diamond had won the variety category in 1995 for “Some Enchanted Evening, Celebrating Oscar Hammerstein.” McKinsey won the serials category in 1997 for “General Hospital.”

War worries

Several presenters expressed concerns over the prospect of a looming war with Iraq, provoking positive reaction from the audience. Jackson noted that “Live From Baghdad” was shot in Morocco, where the cast and crew were well treated by the Muslim population, and added, “I hope that our common humanity will get us through this.”

Carl Reiner, who served as emcee for the 17th consecutive DGA, concluded the evening by asserting that the U.S. should not be going to war. “I hope that our elected officials will allow us to have another DGA dinner next year,” he said.

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