Clint Eastwood, whose film "Million Dollar Baby" is nominated for seven Academy Awards, was named best director of 2004 on Saturday by the Directors Guild of America.
The DGA award for his boxing drama, combined with his receiving the Golden Globe two weeks ago for best director, makes him the front-runner for the Oscar.
Eastwood, 74, won the DGA award 12 years ago for "Unforgiven" and was nominated last year for "Mystic River." He is the oldest director to receive the DGA's top honor.
Since 1949, the DGA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have disagreed only six times in their best director picks. But the DGA hasn't been quite the bellwether it once was. Since 2001, just two of the four DGA award winners went on to win the Oscar: Ron Howard for 2001's "A Beautiful Mind" and Peter Jackson for 2003's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."