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Directors note teamwork

`Little Miss Sunshine's' Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris get a nod for the DGA award.

January 10, 2007|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

For the first time in nearly three decades, the Directors Guild of America on Tuesday nominated a directing team for its DGA award for outstanding directorial achievement in a feature film.

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris were nominated for the 2006 DGA award for "Little Miss Sunshine," a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family determined to have its young daughter participate in a beauty contest.

"Little Miss Sunshine" marked the feature film directorial debut for the husband-and-wife team, who had previously worked on documentaries, commercials and music videos.

"We are totally shocked by this," said Faris, 48. "There aren't a lot of directing teams and the DGA has been more in favor of single directors, I think."

"I don't think it's the beginning of a trend," said Dayton, 49. "But we're so completely honored by it," added Faris.

Warren Beatty and Buck Henry were the last team nominated for the top DGA prize, for 1978's "Heaven Can Wait." The only team to win was Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins for 1961's "West Side Story."

Other nominees in the feature film directing category were Bill Condon for the lavish musical "Dreamgirls," Stephen Frears for the Elizabeth II drama "The Queen," Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for the multilayered global drama "Babel" and Martin Scorsese for the gangster thriller "The Departed."

"I am flooded with cliches," joked Condon, 51, who previously directed the acclaimed low-budget films, "Gods and Monsters" and "Kinsey," and wrote the screenplay for the last musical to win the Oscar for best film, 2002's "Chicago."

"For me, this movie was such a big sort of step up in terms of budget and scope and working with such an incredible group of technicians and prepping the movie for a year," Condon said. "It's such a great kind of ending to the process."

Frears, 65, mused that directors showed "impeccable judgment" in their selections. "They are the ones who really know. This is terrific. It's so thrilling."

Scorsese, 64, is the only repeat nominee, having previously received nominations for 1976's "Taxi Driver," 1980's "Raging Bull," 1990's "GoodFellas," 1993's "The Age of Innocence," 2002's "Gangs of New York" and 2004's "The Aviator."

Four years ago, Scorsese won the organization's highest artistic honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award.

In a statement, Scorsese said: "It is a great honor to receive this recognition from my fellow filmmakers. As with all films, the making of 'The Departed' was a group effort, and the opportunity to work alongside its talented cast and crew was a reward in itself. But I am very grateful for the DGA's nomination, which recognizes the contributions of not just myself but my entire directing team."

The 43-year-old Gonzalez Inarritu had just landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York when he learned of the nomination.

"I am really honored," he said, "really happy and the most beautiful thing is that it's coming from my fellows [directors]."

Notably missing from the list of nominees was two-time DGA award-winner Clint Eastwood for "Letters From Iwo Jima."

The Japanese-language World War II drama won top film honors from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures and the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., and Eastwood is nominated for two Golden Globes for best director for "Iwo Jima" and its companion piece "Flags of Our Fathers."

Irish filmmaker Paul Greengrass, who won best director honors from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics for his 9/11 drama "United 93," also failed to receive a nomination.

Since its inception in 1949, the DGA award winners have gone on to receive the Academy award 52 of 58 times.

The last time the DGA and Oscar disagreed was four years ago, when Rob Marshall won the guild's award for "Chicago" and Roman Polanski received the Oscar for "The Pianist."

The winner will be announced at the DGA awards dinner on Feb. 3 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

susan.king@latimes.com

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