55th DGA Awards Ceremony

Awards Ceremony

55th Annual DGA Awards
If the late Bob Fosse could have been on hand to experience the 55th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards on March 1 at the Century Plaza Hotel, he would surely have approved of what went down. He'd have seen director Rob Marshall take home the feature film prize for the screen adaptation of Chicago, which Fosse had originally created on Broadway in 1975.

And as if to punctuate Fosse's ghostly presence at the black-tie evening, the special "From Broadway: Fosse," presented as part of the PBS Great Performances: Dance in America series, earned the DGA Award for outstanding directorial achievement in a musical variety program for its director Matthew Diamond.

Yes, it was a Fosse kind of night one that the man who created all that jazz might have made his own. It was a hitch-free, glorious affair attended by a record 1,650 guests and an A-list collection of presenters that included Alan Alda, Kathy Bates, Cate Blanchett, Adrien Brody (a winner on Oscar night for The Pianist), LeVar Burton, Gil Cates, Michael C. Hall, Salma Hayek, Cheryl Hines, Ron Howard, Michael Keaton, Peter Krause, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Julianne Moore, Joe Pesci, John C. Reilly, Rob Reiner, Martin Sheen, Steven Spielberg and Renée Zellweger.

The triumph by first-time director and DGA nominee Marshall caught him by surprise. "I first have to thank the DGA for this unbelievable welcome it's astounding to me," Marshall said in his acceptance. "I have to pay tribute to the original creator of this Bob Fosse on stage." Marshall then went on to cite the influence of such movie musical directors as Stanley Donen, Vincente Minnelli, Gene Kelly, Herbert Ross and Robert Wise for their inspiration. "I'm here because of them because I watched their work and studied their work and loved their work."

In taking home the award for his feature film debut, choreographer-turned-director Marshall outdistanced a nominee field that included Stephen Daldry for The Hours, Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Roman Polanski for The Pianist (who won the best directing Oscar) and Martin Scorsese for Gangs of New York.

In an ironic twist, this year's DGA and Oscar director winners recalled one of the few times that the DGA feature film honor wasn't a harbinger of the Oscar. In 1972 Francis Ford Coppola won the DGA honor for The Godfather but Fosse went on to capture the best director Oscar for Cabaret.

One of the night's biggest moments was reserved for Scorsese, who at the end of the night was presented the Guild's highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, by the award's prior honoree Steven Spielberg, who paid tribute to the master filmmaker.

Speaking of Scorsese's work as both a director and staunch advocate of film preservation, Spielberg said, "He is to film what my friend the late Stephen Ambrose was to history. He insists we learn from history and he insists we live beside it. Marty not only makes history come alive, he makes sure it stays alive."

After taking the stage to a standing ovation, Scorsese invoked the names of several of his esteemed directorial predecessors who had also won the DGA's Lifetime Achievement honor men like Cecil B. DeMille, John Ford, Henry King and King Vidor.

"It's overwhelming for me," Scorsese said. "Most of these directors made films that shaped me as a person and for better or worse as a filmmaker, so I have to keep reminding myself that even though I'm receiving an honor they received, it doesn't necessarily make me one of them. I wanted to be them, but over the years of making movies I realized it was impossible. I rationalized that I'm from another time and place, and I reflect my world today just as they reflected their world and the Hollywood in which they worked."

Scorsese added that "preservation is the umbilical cord to the past, to history" and urged younger filmmakers to be vigilant in safeguarding their work because no one else will. "There will never be a guarantee your work will survive the way you originally intended unless you are constantly vigilant," he said.

That was how the 55th Annual DGA Awards concluded. It had opened with DGA President Martha Coolidge welcoming attendees with a declaration that put the night into perspective early on. "We are a Guild," Coolidge said, "and we take a great deal of pride in the fact that our founders came together to protect, first and foremost, the creative rights of the directors and the high standards of production that they represent."

Master of Ceremonies Carl Reiner, serving as DGA Awards' emcee for the 16th time, would be surprised later in the evening by a special award honoring him for his presiding duties over the years. It was presented by Martin Sheen, who told Reiner, "You make it a warm, family gathering."

Awards in the top television categories went to three HBO programs and their directors. Mick Jackson took the award in the movies for television category for Live From Baghdad, a film that detailed CNN's coverage of the first Persian Gulf War.
Noting that the movie was shot in Morocco an Islamic country that stood in for Iraq Jackson recalled his fond memories of the Moroccan people while alluding to the present world situation. He said, "There is a common humanity that we all share that will get us through this."

John Patterson was presented the DGA Award for dramatic prime-time series for his season-ending "Whitecaps" episode of HBO's The Sopranos that found Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco) and husband Tony (James Gandolfini) splitting up. The comedy series directing honor went to Bryan Gordon for the "Special Section" episode of the improvisational HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Other winners included Tasha Oldham, who took home the documentary award for her account of AIDS, homosexuality and one Mormon family entitled The Smith Family; Scott McKinsey, who earned the daytime serial honor for an episode of the ABC soap Port Charles; Guy Ferland, winning the children's program statuette for Showtime's Bang Bang You're Dead; and Baker Smith of harvest films, taking the commercial prize for his directorial work.

Other special awards were also presented. Rob Reiner presented John Rich an Honorary Life Member Award for his service to the Guild. Gilbert Cates introduced Jud Taylor, who received the Robert B. Aldrich Award for service to the DGA. Alan Alda presented the Frank Capra Achievement Award to Yudi Bennett, with whom Alda worked as a first assistant director. And Stanley Faer presented Esperanza "Candy" Martinez with the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award.

Actors from each of the nominated films paid tribute to the nominated feature film directors, presenting them with official nomination plaques. Those included Julianne Moore for Daldry, Cate Blanchett for Jackson, Zellweger for Marshall, DiCaprio and Day-Lewis for Scorsese and Brody for Polanski.

Brody's presentation to Polanski proved to be one of the evening's most unusual but heartfelt moments. The actor offered a few personal anecdotes about the director, finally concluding, "Roman is a survivor whose spirit remains unbroken."

Polanski accepted his nomination on the Swiss Alps in a pre-taped response recorded by his own daughter who filmed it on a handheld camera. "Needless to say, recognition by my peers means a lot to me," Polanski said before gliding effortlessly downhill on his skis. The audience warmly applauded.