Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” may have walked away from yesterday’s SAG nominations empty handed, but the film landed an impressive quartet of nominations for the 72nd Golden Globes, including the first-ever nomination for a female African American director.

And yet, DuVernay says she was most hopeful not for herself, but for the film’s star, David Oyelowo.

“He put everything he had into this piece, so that was my highest hope when nominations were about to be announced,” she says of Oyelowo, who was nominated for best actor.

The British thesp stars as Martin Luther King Jr. in the Paramount pic at the height of the civil rights marches of Selma, Alabama.

Oprah Winfrey is an exec producer on the film, which was co-written by Paul Webb.

DuVernay said she knew Oyelowo would nail Dr. King’s iconic speeches, “because he is such a natural thespian,” she says. “He also goes very deep and we were always breaking down the character. I knew for a while that he would be able to portray the part beautifully, and he did.”

Meanwhile, Oyelowo maintains that it was DuVernay’s commitment to the personal, intimate storytelling that helped shape the story. “That was the greatest strength of Ava’s,” he says. “I always knew that if I was ever going to conquer the role it was more about the quiet moments and less about the bigger ones.”

“Selma” hits theaters Christmas day.