Directors Guild Awards: Christopher Nolan Wins Top Prize for ‘Oppenheimer’

Christopher Nolan has won the feature-film prize from the Directors Guild of America for “Oppenheimer,” reinforcing his film’s status as the heavy favorite this awards season. The honor went to Nolan at the end of the 76th annual DGA Awards, which took place on Saturday night in Beverly Hills.

In the other film categories, Celine Song won the award for first-time directing for her gentle drama “Past Lives” and Mstyslav Chernov won the documentary award for “20 Days in Mariupol,” his on-the-ground report from the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Peter Hoar won the drama-series award for “The Last of Us,” in a category in which the other four nominees were all from different episodes of “Succession.”

The award for Comedy Series directing went to Christopher Storer for the “Fishes” episode of “The Bear.” Sarah Adina Smith won the award for TV movie or limited series for the “Her and Him” episode of “Lessons in Chemistry,” which had three of the five nominations in the category.

Other winners included Amy Schatz for “Stand Up and Shout: Songs From a Philly High School” (Children’s Programs), Niharika Desai for “Rainn Wilson and the Geography of Bliss” (Reality Programs) Paul Miller for “Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love” (Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Special) and Michael Mancini and Liz Patrick for “Saturday Night Live” (Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Series).

The Directors Guild Award for theatrical feature film is one of the most reliable Oscar indicators, with 67 DGA winners in the past 75 years going on to win the Academy Award for Best Director. In recent years, though, the win for director has frequently not matched the Oscar Best Picture winner. Over the past decade, the DGA and Academy had agreed nine out of 10 times on the directing winner, but the Best Picture award has gone to the movie made by the DGA winner only four times.

This year’s DGA lineup only matched three of the five Oscar Best Director nominees. The guild nominated Greta Gerwig for “Barbie” and Alexander Payne for “The Holdovers,” while the Academy’s Directors Branch, which has admitted a large number of international filmmakers in recent years, bypassed those two directors in favor of two films largely or wholly not in English, Justine Triet for “Anatomy of a Fall” and Jonathan Glazer for “The Zone of Interest.”

The Directors Guild Awards give every one of the nominated directors his or her own tribute and allow the five nominees to make acceptance speeches and bask in the love of the room. Martin Scorsese in particular received constant shout-outs all night and got an instant standing ovation when he took the stage.

But Nolan came into the show as a clear favorite to win the DGA Award, and his victory reinforces the dominant narrative of an awards season in which “Oppenheimer” has been on a seemingly inexorable march to the Oscars. At this point, it would take a shocking upset at the Producers Guild Awards in two weeks to slow the film’s momentum.

Special Award recipients are director David Nutter (Lifetime Achievement Award in Television), united production manager Janet G. Knutsen and stage manager Gary Natoli (Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award).

The ceremony took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and was hosted by Judd Apatow, who started his monologue by talking about the lengthy WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes and the quick deal made by the DGA with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. “My agent said that I should hold out for more money,” he said of his fifth time as host of the ceremony. “But in the spirit of the DGA, I accepted their first offer.”

Here is the full list of nominees. Winners are indicated by *WINNER.

Greta Gerwig, “Barbie”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “Poor Things”
Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer” *WINNER
Alexander Payne, “The Holdovers”
Martin Scorsese, “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Cord Jefferson, “American Fiction”
Manuela Martelli, “Chile ’76”
Noora Riasari, “Shayda”
A.V. Rockwell, “A Thousand and One”
Celine Song, “Past Lives” *WINNER

Moses Bwayo & Christopher Sharp, “Bobi Wine: The People’s President”
Mstyslav Chernov, “20 Days in Mariupol” *WINNER
Madeleine Gavin, “Beyond Utopia”
Davis Guggenheim, “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie”
D. Smith, “Kokomo City”

Peter Hoar, “The Last of Us”: “Long, Long Time” *WINNER
Becky Martin, “Succession”: “Rehearsal”
Mark Mylod, “Succession”: “Connor’s Wedding”
Andrij Parekh, “Succession”:”America Decides”
Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman, “Succession”: “Tailgate Party”

Eric Dunton, “Ted Lasso”: “La Locker Room Aux Folles”
Bill Hader, “Barry”: “wow”
Declan Lowney, “Ted Lasso”: “So Long, Farewell”
Christopher Storer, “The Bear”: “Fishes” *WINNER
Ramy Youssef, “The Bear”: “Honeydew”

Shawn Levy, “All the Light We Cannot See”
Tara Miele, “Lessons in Chemistry”: “Introduction to Chemistry”
Millicent Shelton, “Lessons in Chemistry”: “Poirot”
Sarah Adina Smith, “Lessons in Chemistry”: “Her and Him” *WINNER
Nzingha Stewart, “Daisy Jones & The Six”: “Track 10: Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”

Paul G. Casey, Real Time with Bill Maher”: “Episode 2117”
Jim Hoskinson, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”: “Jan. 19, 2023: Rep. Adam Kinzinger; Meet Me at the Altar; Special appearance by Harvey Guillén”
Michael Mancini & Liz Patrick, “Saturday Night Live”: “Pedro Pascal/Coldplay” *WINNER
David Pau Meyer, “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah”: “Singer Charley Crockett Performs “Name on a Billboard” and Discusses New Album with Jordan Klepper “
Paul Pennolino, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”: “Episode 1018: Dollar Stores”

Joel Gallen, “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage”
Stan Lathan, “Dave Chappelle: The Dreamer”
Linda Mendoza, “Wanda Sykes: I’m an Entertainer”
Paul Miller, “Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love” *WINNER
Glenn Weiss, “The 95th Annual Academy Awards”

Niharika Desai, “Rainn Wilson and the Geography of Bliss”: “Happiness is a Bottle of Cod Liver Oil” *WINNER
Ken Fuchs, “The Golden Bachelor”: “Premiere”
Joseph Guidry & Alexandra Lipsitz, “Project Greenlight: A New Generation”: “PGL vs. Gray Matter Problem”
Rich Kim, “Lego Masters”: “Is It Brick?”
Patrick McManus, “American Ninja Warrior”: “Season 15 Finale”

James Bobin, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians”: “I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher”
Destin Daniel Cretton, “American Born Chinese”: “What Guy Are You”
Rob Letterman, “Goosebumps”: “Say Cheese and Die”  
Amy Schatz, “Stand Up & Shout: Songs From a Philly High School” *WINNER
Dinh Thai, “American Born Chinese”: “A Monkey on a Quest”

Martin de Thurah (Epoch Films), Fair Exchange, Levi’s 501 Jeans – Droga5; Legends Never Die, Levi’s 501 Jeans, Droga5
Seb Edwards (Park Pictures), Rumble, Battle of the Baddest – Droga5
Kim Gehrig (Somesuch), Run This Town, Apple Music – Apple (Client Direct); The Travelers, Expedia – Wieden & Kennedy *WINNER
Craig Gillespie (MJZ), Waiting Room, Apple iPhone – TBWA/Media Arts Lab
Andreas Nilsson (Biscuit Filmworks), R.I.P. Leon, Apple iPhone – Apple (Client Direct); Action Mode, Apple iPhone14 – Apple (Client Direct); Choose Happy, Les Mills Fitness – Nice&Frank, San Francisco; Wait’ll You See This, Snapchat – Snapchat (Client Direct)

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