DGA Honors

DGA Honors

DGA Honors 2003

On Sunday, November 16, 2003, the Directors Guild of America celebrated its 4th Annual DGA Honors to celebrate people and institutions that have made distinguished contributions to American culture through the world of film and television, and recognize the diversity of achievement – in business, government, labor and educators – required to produce the best entertainment in the world.

The ceremonies took place at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, New York.


2003 Honorees

Robert Altman, Director

Filmmaker Robert Altman is acclaimed for his vibrant, freewheeling films that stretch the boundaries of the medium. In the 1950s in his native Kansas City, he began making industrial and documentary films at the Calvin Company. His feature directorial debut, made in Kansas City, was the teenage gang drama The Delinquents (1957). He next co-directed the documentary feature The James Dean Story (1957). Altman then spent several years directing episodes of top television series, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Millionaire, Bonanza, and Kraft Suspense Theatre.

Returning his focus to feature films, he directed the taut space drama Countdown (1968) and the thriller That Cold Day in the Park (1969). His next film, M*A*S*H (1970) won the coveted Palme d'Or at the Cannes International Film Festival; was a global box office smash; and firmly established Altman as a major American director.

In the years that followed, his films successfully explored such diverse themes as pulp noir (by inventively reworking Raymond Chandler in The Long Goodbye [1973]); The Depression (Thieves Like Us [1974]); the communion of two male gamblers on a spree (California Split [1974]); and haunting explorations of the interior lives of women (Images [1972] and 3 Women [1977]).

With Nashville (1975), Altman displayed his talent for braiding the stories of a large ensemble cast. This approach has also characterized a number of his other films, including A Wedding (1978); Short Cuts (1993); Pret-a-Porter/Ready to Wear (1994); and the U.K. period mystery Gosford Park (2001). Other films include the popular film-industry odyssey The Player (1992); cinematic homages to music (the gangster-themed Kansas City [1996] and its documentary companion piece, Robert Altman's Jazz '34: Remembrances of Kansas City Swing [1997]); and, most recently, contemporary comedies of Southern manners (Cookie's Fortune [1999] and Dr. T and the Women [2000]). In addition to most of his own films, Altman's producing credits include five films directed by Alan Rudolph: Welcome to L.A. (1977), Remember My Name (1978), Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), Afterglow (1997), and Trixie (2000); Robert Benton's The Late Show (1977); and Robert M. Young's Rich Kids (1979).

Altman's latest film, The Company, starring Neve Campbell, Malcolm McDowell, James Franco and featuring the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago will be released this Christmas. Throughout his career, he has received dozens of international awards signaling his talent as one of America's preeminent directors.

Curtis Hanson, Director

Director and screenwriter Curtis Hanson began his career as a photographer and editor for Cinema magazine. He then went on to write the screenplay for The Silent Partner in 1978, which received multiple awards. In conjunction with the late director Samuel Fuller, Hanson wrote the screenplay for White Dog, in 1982. The following year, Hanson co-wrote the screenplay for Carroll Ballard's Never Cry Wolf. In 1987, Hanson wrote and directed The Bedroom Window, which starred Steve Guttenberg, Elizabeth McGovern and Isabelle Huppert. He continued his career with two more contemporary works: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and Bad Influence. In 1994 Hanson directed The River Wild, an adventure film which starred Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon and David Strathairn. Hanson also co-wrote, directed and produced the DGA Award nominated film L.A. Confidential. In 1997, L.A. Confidential won an Academy Award®, for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as the equivalent from the Writers Guild of America and almost every other major critic's organization. In 2000, Hanson produced and directed Wonder Boys. In 2002, he directed and produced 8 Mile as well as appearing in Adaptation. Since 1999, Hanson, a strong supporter of film preservation, has served as the Chairman of the UCLA Film and Television Archive. At this year's gala, he is being honored by the Film Foundation for his contributions to film preservation.

Joe Pytka, Director

Joe Pytka is the creator of some of the world's most memorable television commercials. His commercials have debuted more than 30 times on the annual Super Bowl telecast. One of the most vociferous taskmasters in the business, he is also a guerrilla filmmaker who worked against all odds to create documentaries and other programs for the fledgling Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the 1960s and '70s.

Today, Joe Pytka has directed more than 5,000 commercials that have earned him every award and nomination ever conceived for such endeavors, including three Directors Guild of America Commercial Direction Awards and 14 nominations — the most for that category. Over the past three decades, his stylized images have wedged themselves into the American consciousness. They include: Ray Charles' "Uh-huh" for Pepsi; "This is your brain on drugs" and the New York City Miracle spots, including Woody Allen skating, Henry Kissinger sliding into home plate and Yogi Berra conducting the New York Philharmonic. He has also directed two films: Space Jam and Let it Ride.

Honorable Olympia Snowe, U.S. Senator

U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is a prominent co-sponsor of the Anti Runaway Production Senate Bill 1613 (recently re-introduced by Senator Blanche Lincoln in September 2003). Senator Snowe has been an active champion of this important legislation, having been one of the original co-sponsors of the bill (formerly SB 1278) when first introduced in July of 2001. In November 2000, Olympia J. Snowe was re-elected to a second six-year term with 69 percent of the vote to continue representing Maine in the United States Senate. Before her election to the Senate, Olympia Snowe represented Maine's Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for sixteen years. Senator Snowe is only the fourth woman in history to be elected to both houses of Congress and the first woman in American history to serve in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress. When first elected to Congress in 1978, at the age of 31, Olympia Snowe was the youngest Republican woman, and the first Greek-American woman, ever elected to Congress. She has won more federal elections in Maine than any other person since World War II.

Senator Snowe has worked extensively on issues such as: budget and fiscal responsibility; education; national security; women's issues; health care, including prescription drug coverage for Medicare recipients; oceans and fisheries issues; and campaign finance reform. She has also led efforts important to Maine, including a successful push for federal disaster funds in response to a devastating 1998 ice storm, increased funding for the Togus veterans hospital, reauthorization of the Northeast Dairy Compact so critical to the survival of Maine's small family dairy farms, and opposition to a proposed federal rule that would have devastated the state's lobster fishery. In 2001, Snowe became the first Republican woman ever to secure a full-term seat on the Senate Finance Committee, and only the third woman in history to join the panel. The Committee is considered one of the most powerful in Congress because its members write tax, trade, health care, welfare, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security-related legislation. Snowe is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Health Care, which oversees matters related to health insurance, Medicare and the uninsured. A member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, she is the Ranking Member of its Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere and Fisheries, which oversees America's fisheries and the Coast Guard. Senator Snowe is married to former Maine Governor John R. McKernan Jr.

John Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO

John Sweeney was elected president of the AFL-CIO at the federation's biennial convention in October 1995 and has been re-elected twice since then. At the time of his election, he was serving his fourth four-year term as president of SEIU, which grew from 625,000 to 1.1 million members under his leadership. An AFL-CIO vice president since 1980, Sweeney was born May 5, 1934, in Bronx, N.Y.

His trade union career began as a research assistant with the Ladies Garment Workers. In 1960, he joined SEIU as a contract director for New York City Local 32B. He went on to become union president and to lead two citywide strikes of apartment maintenance workers. In 1980, he was elected president of the SEIU international, an office that he held for four terms before being elected as the President of the AFL-CIO. Sweeney is the author of America Needs A Raise: Fighting for Economic Security and Social Justice.