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DGA Nominees Don't Include Robert Altman

January 23, 2002|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ron Howard lost the Golden Globe for best director on Sunday to Robert Altman, but the two won't be in competition for the Directors Guild of America award for outstanding directorial achievement in feature film for 2001.

Howard, a previous DGA winner for 1995's "Apollo 13," received his third nomination Tuesday from the organization for "A Beautiful Mind," his drama that explores mathematical genius John Nash's battle with schizophrenia. Noticeably absent from the list of five nominees was the 76-year-old Altman, director of "Gosford Park."

Besides Howard, the other director nominees were Peter Jackson for the fantasy "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," Baz Luhrmann for the musical "Moulin Rouge," Ridley Scott for the war epic "Black Hawk Down" and Christopher Nolan for "Memento," the film noir that unfolds in reverse.

Last year's winner, Ang Lee ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), and DGA Vice President Martha Coolidge made the announcement Tuesday at Directors Guild of America headquarters. The DGA Awards will be handed out March 9 at the Century Plaza Hotel during the 54th annual DGA Awards dinner.

Besides the Golden Globe, Altman had also received the New York Film Critics Circle and National Society of Film Critics award for best director and had been considered a front-runner for a DGA nod. Other directors missing from the nominees' list included critics' darlings David Lynch for "Mulholland Dr." and Todd Field for "In the Bedroom."

Since 1949, the DGA Award winner has been the most accurate barometer for who will win the Academy Award for best director. Only five times have the DGA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences parted ways in the best director category, including last year, when Lee won the DGA award but Steven Soderbergh won the Oscar for "Traffic."

Howard, 47, who began his career as a child actor and has been making films for more than 20 years, received his first DGA nomination 16 years ago for the box-office hit "Cocoon." Scott, 64, also has been nominated twice before by the DGA for 1991's "Thelma & Louise" and for 2000's "Gladiator." The three other nominees are first-timers. At 31, Nolan is the youngest nominee.

In a reflection this year of the international scope of cinema, Howard is the only American nominee. Scott and Nolan are English, Jackson is from New Zealand and Luhrmann is Australian.

Howard was thrilled with his nomination. "The Directors Guild has been very supportive over the years, and I really appreciate it," he said. "It is a peer group and those who vote know [their profession]."

Luhrmann, 39, said, "In a way, it is probably for a director the trickiest [award]. It is a fantastic thing to be recognized by people who comment in the media, but your peers, they know the work. They understand that directing isn't about moving traffic around, it is the entire complexity of the work," Luhrmann said.

Scott agreed with Howard and Luhrmann that the DGA Award nomination is important because it comes from their peers. "So often, throughout the year, we never meet each other, and it's a great pity. [The DGA Awards] is the one occasion where you get to come together, and if you're lucky you get to meet some of the guys who do the same job you do, you will meet others in the same process. Directing is a tough process, but that's why we do it. We love it."

Jackson, 40, who is deep in post-production on "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," the second of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, pointed out that fantasy films usually don't receive such nominations. "It's great that the fantasy genre, that people are actually looking upon that with new eyes."

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