DGA President Michael Apted opens the proceedings...

Awards Ceremony

56th Annual DGA Awards

The third time proved to be the charm for Peter Jackson at the 56th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards on February 7 inside the Century Plaza Hotel's Los Angeles Ballroom, as the director of the acclaimed The Lord of the Rings trilogy finally struck pay dirt with his third nomination in as many years. He won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Films for The Return of the King after receiving nominations in 2002 and 2003 for The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

"I honestly don't know how you make these choices," Jackson, in his acceptance speech, told the record crowd of DGA members, guests, industry VIPs and an A-list collection of presenters. "We live in an age where people write books about nightmarish experiences on film sets. And I didn't have one of those. I just had an amazing time with the cast of wonderful actors who just supported me every step of the way, and the crew and the studio. And I am so proud to have spent this time making a film that, thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien's book, promotes the values of courage, of friendship and faith."

Jackson's esteemed fellow nominees in the category included Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, Clint Eastwood for Mystic River, Gary Ross for Seabiscuit and Peter Weir for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. All were in attendance and presented with nomination plaques during the Awards ceremony.

The black-tie event was hosted for a 19th time by the ever-glib, vigorous — and ageless — Carl Reiner. The impressive list of presenters included Sean Astin, Maria Bello, Bob Butler, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Gil Cates, Patricia Clarkson, James D'Arcy, Kristin Davis, Buck Henry, Djimon Hounsou, Anjelica Huston, Christine Lahti, Laura Linney, Tobey Maguire, Garry Marshall, Rob Marshall, Helen Mirren, Janel Moloney, Sean Penn, Dan Petrie Sr., Naomi Watts and Elijah Wood.

Director Mike Nichols won the DGA Award for Outstanding Direction of Movies for Television for the HBO miniseries Angels in America while also being bestowed with the DGA Lifetime Achievement Award (the Guild's highest honor). Nichols joined a Lifetime Achievement recipients list that includes Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, John Ford, Robert Altman, Akira Kurosawa, John Huston, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra, Billy Wilder and Ingmar Bergman.

Nichols — the director of such classics as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate (for which he won the DGA Award) — was in London working on the new drama Closer and unable to attend the Awards but accepted in videotaped comments.

"The fact the DGA is giving me a Lifetime Achievement Award means a great deal," Nichols said. "When I came out to make my first picture, Billy Wilder said, 'Don't forget to leave some string between the pearls.' Not only is that very useful but it's been easier for me because it's a very good thing to remember not to make every moment a great moment — as if we could."

Nichols also praised his longtime 1st AD Mike Haley and added of the honor, "I hope I get to do a few more (films)."

Buck Henry, who wrote the screenplays for both Catch-22 and The Graduate, set the stage for Nichols with a mirthful intro/acceptance.

Earlier in the evening, Timothy M. Van Patten won the DGA Award for comedy series for his work on the "Boy Interrupted" episode of HBO's Sex and the City. It was Van Patten's second DGA nomination and first win. And Christopher Misiano turned his first DGA nom into triumph by taking home the dramatic prime-time series honor for the episode "25" of NBC's The West Wing.

Nathaniel Kahn carted off the award for outstanding directorial achievement in documentary for My Architect: A Son's Journey — a portrait of his father, architect Louis Kahn. The film is also nominated for an Academy Award, and in the DGA field it was matched against such high-profile, highly regarded docs as The Weather Underground (from Sam Green and Bill Siegel), Andrew Jarecki's Capturing the Friedmans, Jose Pahilha's Bus 174 and Errol Morris' The Fog of War.

Kahn observed during his acceptance that the nominated feature-length documentaries "get seen in a real movie theater now. That is enormously exciting for all of us."

David Mallet earned the musical variety award for directing the NBC special Cher - The Farewell Tour, which also snared an Emmy last year. The daytime serials prize went to Larry Carpenter for an edition of ABC's long-running One Life To Live (#8849). For commercials, the winner was director David Fincher of Anonymous Content for the Nike spots "Gamebreakers" and "Speed Chain" and another for Xelibri Phones entitled "Beauty for Sale."

The DGA Award for children's programming was bestowed upon Kevin Lima for the ABC presentation, Eloise at Christmastime. Accepting the honor, Lima shared a story from the set: "Every morning, Julie Andrews would come up to me, give me a big kiss and say, 'How are you today, love?' And you know, it made my day. I went through my day thinking, 'Mary Poppins Loves Me!' "

Several special awards also were presented at the event. Garry Marshall presented the Franklin J. Schaffner Award to Peery Forbis. Robert Butler handed Stephen Glanzrock the Frank Capra Achievement Award. Daniel Petrie, Sr. gave Larry Auerbach the Honorary Life Member Award for distinguished service to the Guild. And Christine Lahti introduced Jeremy Kagan, who was honored with the Robert B. Aldrich Award.

Meanwhile, host Reiner was as entertaining and mock-scatterbrained as ever, keeping the evening's mood light and energetic. He dispensed regular "mulligans," allowing winners to return to the stage to give additional "thank-you's" to anyone they might initially forget.