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JACK MATHEWS

Directors Put Woman On Top 5 List

January 29, 1987|JACK MATHEWS

Randa Haines, who moved from television drama to feature films with last year's "Children of a Lesser God," has become the first American woman ever nominated as the year's best motion picture director by the Directors Guild of America.

Haines was one of four first-time DGA nominees on the list of five finalists announced Wednesday by Franklin Schaffner, a former DGA winner for "Patton." The others are Rob Reiner ("Stand By Me"), James Ivory ("A Room With a View") and Oliver Stone ("Platoon").

The fifth nominee, Woody Allen ("Hannah and Her Sisters"), won the DGA's feature award for "Annie Hall" in 1977 and was nominated again in 1979 for "Manhattan."

None of the names on this year's list of nominees could be considered a surprise, but most handicappers might have ranked English director Roland Joffe ("The Mission") ahead of Raines and Reiner on their lists. "The Mission," a $26-million movie shot in South America, has the kind of big-stars, big-story pedigree that lands awards, and Joffe was nominated his last time out for "The Killing Fields."

Without Joffe, or another foreign director on the list, this marks the first time in the guild's history that all of the nominees are Americans. ("A Room With a View" was made in England with an English cast with a script adapted from an English novel, but Ivory is a native Californian.)

Haines and Reiner, the only two of the five nominees to appear at Wednesday's press announcement, both seemed suprised and excited to have found their names on the list.

"Woody Allen is an idol and my favorite film maker," said Reiner, whose "Stand By Me" is his third feature. "To be on the same list with him is-- forget it !"

Haines, who joins Italian Lina Wertmuller ("Seven Beauties") as the only women nominated by the DGA, acknowledged that her Emmy-winning TV drama "Something About Amelia" led directly to her getting a directing assignment for "Children of a Lesser God." Asked if being a woman and a first-time director was met with any resistance during the making of "Children," she said, "I just do what I know I have to do and ignore that if it's there. Why take on that kind of negativity?"

If there is a trend to be spotted in the DGA's 1986 choices, it is that directors working with relatively small budgets are accomplishing big things. None of the nominees' movies cost anywhere near the current major studio average of $16 million and most of them were produced for less than half that amount.

Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters," a social comedy about the marital woes of three New York sisters, cost about $10 million to make and has brought in $30 million at the box office.

Reiner's "Stand By Me," an offbeat drama about four pre-pubescent boys who trek off for a 1959 adventure to view a dead body, has grossed more than $50 million since its release last summer. Reiner said the film cost just under $8 million.

Haines' "Children of a Lesser God," adapted from Mark Medoff's Tony award-winning play about the relationship between an emotionally troubled deaf woman and a teacher of deaf children, cost about $8 million. It has taken in $23 million since early fall.

Ivory's "A Room With a View," a comedy of English manners adapted from an E. M. Forster novel, was passed on by most Hollywood studios, despite a bargain $3-million budget. After nearly a year of careful art-house handling by small Cinecom International, the film has grossed more than $16 million.

And Stone's "Platoon," a $6.5-million Vietnam combat film, is apparently on its way to becoming one of 1987's box-office champs. On the eve of its wide national opening, "Platoon" has already taken in $16.2 million.

Normally, the DGA nominations, representing the vote of the entire guild, closely parallel the Oscar nominees selected by the directors branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The list is also the first reliable indicator of which films are likely to dominate the overall Academy Award nominations.

Only three times since the DGA began handing out director awards in 1947 has the eventual winner not also won the Oscar. In 1968, Anthony Harvey won the DGA award for "The Lion in Winter" while the Oscar went to Carol Reed for "Oliver!" In 1972, Francis Coppola won the DGA award for "The Godfather," and Bob Fosse took the Oscar for "Cabaret."

Last year, Steven Spielberg established a new first by winning the DGA award after being overlooked for even an Oscar nomination for "The Color Purple."

Given the makeup of the DGA, it is more remarkable how closely its nominees have lined up with those of the academy. Only a small percentage of the DGA's 8,000 members are feature-film directors. All 231 members of the directors branch of the academy (whose Oscar ballots are due in Friday) are directors of feature films.

The DGA winner will be announced March 7.

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