Clint Eastwood scored a knockout with the Directors Guild of America, winning its top award for helming Warner/Lakeshore’s boxing drama “Million Dollar Baby.”
It’s the second time the 74-year-old director-actor-producer has copped the DGA trophy and comes a dozen years after he won the award for “Unforgiven.”
Eastwood, who also stars in “Million Dollar Baby” along with Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman, topped Marc Forster for Miramax’s “Finding Neverland,” Taylor Hackford for Universal’s “Ray,” Alexander Payne for Fox Searchlight’s “Sideways” and Martin Scorsese for Warner/Miramax’s “The Aviator.” It’s the sixth time Scorsese has been shut out from the DGA Award after receiving a nomination.
Steven Spielberg, who praised the nominated directors for “celebrating actors” in their films, presented Eastwood with the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film nod in ceremonies Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
“I’m pleased as punch,” an elated Eastwood declared, and credited Freeman and Swank, his crew and fellow producers Al Ruddy and Tom Rosenberg.
“This is a real pleasure, working with Hilary and Morgan — they’re just fabulous people,” he added. “All I have to do is sort of stand there and guide it.”
Eastwood closed his brief acceptance speech by thanking spouse Dina, noting she had straightened his tie moments before Spielberg’s announcement. “She must have known something,” he added.
Eastwood won both the DGA award and directing Oscar for 1992’s “Unforgiven.” He was also nominated for the DGA award and Oscar last year for “Mystic River” but lost in both races to Peter Jackson for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”
HBO swept the major TV categories, with Tim Van Patten winning the comedy series trophy for the final episode of “Sex and the City,” Walter Hill taking the drama series title for the “Deadwood” pilot and Joe Sargent winning the TV movie award for “Something the Lord Made.” Van Patten also won the category in 2003 for “Sex and the City” and was nominated this year in drama series for “The Sopranos;” Sargent won the category in 1973 for “The Marcus Nelson Murders.”
Hill, who made his name in features such as “The Warriors” and “48 Hrs.,” was a first-time winner. “I salute the other four (nominees); however, I will keep this,” he said.
The DGA snubbed Michael Moore for “Fahrenheit 9/11” in the documentary category, opting for Byambasuren Davaa & Luigi Falorni for “The Story of the Weeping Camel,” set in the Gobi Desert.
Eastwood gets leverage
Eastwood’s win, based on voting by the 12,800 DGA members, makes him a frontrunner among what’s still expected to be a wide-open race among Oscar’s directing nominees, which include Hackford, Payne, Scorsese and “Vera Drake” director Mike Leigh. The DGA and Oscar winners have matched in 50 of the last 56 years, including 2004, when Jackson won both trophies.
However, the DGA has diverged from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences twice in the previous four years — in 2003, when it selected Rob Marshall for “Chicago” and Roman Polanski snagged the Oscar for “The Pianist” and in 2001 when Ang Lee won the DGA trophy for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and Steven Soderbergh took the Oscar for “Traffic.”
Eastwood won the Golden Globe on Jan. 16. “Million Dollar Baby” garnered seven Oscar noms on Tuesday, including ones for picture, actor, actress, supporting actor, adapted screenplay (Paul Haggis) and editing (Joel Cox).
The win for Eastwood came a day after “Million Dollar Baby” launched a major expansion into 2,010 playdates. It grossed $11.8 million over the weekend, lifting the cume to $21.1 million.
Scorsese moves up
Along with Eastwood, Scorsese has been pegged as a frontrunner in the directing category for “The Aviator,” which racked up a leading 11 Oscar noms Jan. 25. Scorsese had been nominated previously for the DGA award for “Gangs of New York,” “The Age of Innocence,” “Good Fellas,” “Raging Bull” and “Taxi Driver;” he’s also been tapped for the director Oscar for “Gangs of New York,” “The Last Temptation of Christ,” “Raging Bull” and “Good Fellas” but hasn’t won yet.
Other winners — all first-timers –included Bruce Gowers for CBS’ “Genius: A Night for Ray Charles” in the musical variety category; Bruce Barry for CBS’ “Guiding Light” in daytime serials; Stuart Gillard for Disney Channel’s “Going to the Mat” in children’s; and Noam Murro for spots for Adidas, eBay and Starbucks in commercials.
Previously announced honorary awards: Gilbert Cates was given the DGA Presidents Award, only the third time the honor has been presented; ABC primetime entertainment president Stephen McPherson received the Diversity Award; Herb Adelman received the Frank Capra Award in recognition of an assistant director or unit production manager; Stanley Faer received the Franklin J. Schaffner Award for an associate director or stage manager.
The DGA moved the event from the Century Plaza Hotel due to a boycott by Unite Here union hotel workers. Several dozen attendees were seated at tables in the entranceway leading to the Beverly Hilton ballroom, prompting MC Carl Reiner to joke, “After this evening, I’ll come back there and tell you who won.”
It was the 19th straight year that Reiner has emceed the show.
DIRECTOR – MOVIES MADE FOR TV
Joe Sargent, “Something the Lord Made” (HBO)
DIRECTOR – DRAMATIC SERIES
Walter Hill, “Deadwood” – Pilot (HBO)
DIRECTOR – COMEDY SERIES
Tim Van Patten, “Sex and the City” – An American Girl in Paris – Part Deux (HBO)
DIRECTOR – MUSICAL VARIETY
Bruce Gowers, “Genius: A night for Ray Charles” (CBS)
DIRECTOR – DAYTIME SERIALS
Bruce Barry, “Guiding Light” – Episode 14,321 (CBS)
DIRECTOR – CHILDREN’S PROGRAMS
Stuart Gillard, “Going to the Mat” (Disney Channel)
DIRECTOR – COMMERCIALS
Noam Murro, Biscuit Filmworks
DIRECTOR – DOCUMENTARY
Byambasuren Davaa & Luigi Falorni, “The Story of the Weeping Camel”
DGA PRESIDENTS AWARD
FRANK CAPRA ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
FRANKLIN J. SCHAFFNER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
DGA DIVERSITY AWARD