A correction has been made to this article on Jan. 30, 2006.
Ang Lee has roped in the Directors Guild of America’s top feature award for helming “Brokeback Mountain,” continuing the roundup of major kudos for Focus Features’ cowboy romance.
Trophy, presented Saturday night at the Century Plaza, is the second DGA award for the 51-year-old native of Taiwan. Lee drew his first DGA nod five years ago for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and has become the 11th director to win the DGA award twice.
Lee prevailed over George Clooney for Warner Independent’s “Good Night, and Good Luck,” Paul Haggis for Lionsgate’s “Crash,” Bennett Miller for United Artists/Sony Classics’ “Capote” and Steven Spielberg for Universal’s “Munich.” Spielberg’s the only director to have won three DGA feature awards.
Award, based on voting by the 12,800 DGA members, was presented by director Ron Howard. The victory wasn’t a surprise given recent support for “Brokeback,” including the Producers Guild Award and four Golden Globes, including drama and director.
In a brief acceptance speech, Lee noted he had presented Howard with the same award in 2002 for “A Beautiful Mind,” then added, “This is the only award I put on my desk.”
Given the DGA’s track record, winning the guild award makes Lee a front-runner for the directing Oscar. The DGA winner and the Oscar winner have matched in 51 of the last 57 years, including last year, when Clint Eastwood won both trophies for “Million Dollar Baby.”
The DGA last diverged from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 2003, when it selected Rob Marshall for “Chicago” and the Oscar went to Roman Polanski for “The Pianist,” and in 2001, when Lee won the DGA award and Steven Soderbergh took the Oscar for “Traffic.”
“Brokeback” actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, in presenting a nomination plaque to Lee, told the audience that the director had been crucial in their performances.
“Ang Lee is fierce in his timidity, his humbleness and his respect for everyone around him,” Gyllenhaal said.
“He helped us find the breath of the voice of the soul, and once we had that, (he) provided us with an incredible environment to breathe and believe,” Ledger said.
“I think we’re all winners because we’re blessed,” Lee said before winning the award. “We make movies together and we celebrate together. What a life.”
Werner Herzog won the documentary prize for Lionsgate’s “Grizzly Man,” assembled from the recovered films of Timothy Treadwell’s decade of living among bears in Alaska. “Half this award goes to him,” Herzog said of Treadwell, who was killed by a bear in 2003.
In TV awards, DGA prexy Michael Apted won the trophy in drama series for HBO’s “Rome,” and Marc Buckland won in comedy series for the pilot of NBC’s “My Name Is Earl.” “This feels like a home field advantage,” Apted quipped on receiving his award.
The TV movie category produced a tie between Joseph Sargent for HBO’s “Warm Springs” and George C. Wolfe for HBO’s “Lackawanna Blues.” Sargent won the telepic category last year for “Something the Lord Made.”
The new reality television category generated a tie between Tony Croll for NBC’s “Three Wishes” and J. Rupert Thompson for NBC’s “Fear Factor.”
Owen Renfroe won in daytime serials for ABC’s “General Hospital”; Chris Eyre took the children’s programs prize for Showtime’s “Edge of America”; and Matthew Diamond won in musical variety for PBS’ “Swan Lake With American Ballet Theater.” Craig Gillespie took the commercials trophy.
Eastwood became the 31st recipient of the DGA’s lifetime achievement award and asserted that he hopes it’s a “midlife achievement award.”
Carl Reiner emceed for the 20th year and said at the end of the evening, “I hope you ask me back, and I hope I’m around.”