“It’s maybe the highest honor I could hope,” Hazanavicius said in his acceptance Saturday night at Hollywood & Highland. “I love directors, I honor directors, so this is an honor for me.”
The DGA win for the 44-year-old French director came on his first DGA nomination — and marks the first time that a silent film has won the DGA trophy since it began giving the awards in 1948.
The helmer described “The Artist” as a “love letter” to Hollywood, set in the days during the transition to talkies. “It’s strange to compare films and say which one is best but I’m very happy to get this,” Hazanavicius concluded in his acceptance speech.
The DGA win came a week after “The Artist” won the Producers Guild trophy. “Hugo” led the way in Tuesday’s Oscar nominations with 11 while “The Artist” scored 10.
The DGA award is a dependable measure of Oscar success, with 12 of the last 16 winners going on to win best picture at the Oscars, last differing in 2005 when “Brokeback Mountain” won the DGA and “Crash” the Oscar. And the DGA winner has matched the Oscar directing winner in all but six years since 1948, including last year, when Tom Hooper took both trophies for “The King’s Speech.” The last divergence came in 2002, when Rob Marshall won the DGA Award for “Chicago” and Roman Polanski received the Academy Award for “The Pianist.”
However, no Oscar bellwether is infallible, partly because of the differences among voting groups. The Acad has 5,783 members, all of them working in the film industry; the DGA has about 14,500, including TV helmers, assistant directors, unit production managers and stage managers.
The French director topped Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris,” David Fincher for “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” Alexander Payne for “The Descendants” and Martin Scorsese for “Hugo.”
Along with Hazanavicius, the Oscar directing nominees are Allen, Payne, Scorsese and Terrence Malick for “The Tree of Life.”
Saturday night’s DGA ceremonies also saw James Marsh win the documentary trophy for “Project Nim.” The story of a chimpanzee’s life among humans isn’t among the five Oscar finalists.
The comedy series trophy went to Robert B. Weide for the “Palestinian Chicken” episode of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” “Modern Family” had won the category two years in a row.
Patty Jenkins won the dramatic series award goes for the pilot of AMC’s “The Killing.”
Jon Cassar won the movies for television and miniseries award for “The Kennedys,” and Glenn Weiss took the musical variety trophy for “The 65th Annual Tony Awards.”
The reality TV trophy went to Neil P. Degroot for “Biggest Loser,” and Amy Schatz took the children’s programming nod for “A Child’s Garden of Poetry.”
Noam Murro won the DGA commercials award and got a big laugh with his two-word acceptance — “Thank you.”
The daytime serials nod went to William Ludel for “General Hospital.”
Woody Allen was a no-show as usual but received big laughs when his videotaped speech for receiving a DGA nom was played: “This is somewhere between the top, the Nobel Prize, and the bottom, the Republican primary.”
Kelsey Grammer emceed as the successor to Carl Reiner, who had hosted 23 times. “Welcome to what will be a glorious night….for some of you,” he said in his opening.