Four Friends and an Oscar

Four Friends and an Oscar

But What I Really Want to Do is Direct

Actors have been getting nominated for Best Director since the beginning of time. Or at least the beginning of the Academy Awards. No exaggeration. Charlie Chaplin was nominated for Best Comedy Direction in the initial awards in 1928.

The list of people who were primarily actors (as opposed to people like Sydney Pollack who was primarily a director or Hitchcock who did cameos) who have been nominated are (in chronological order): Charlie Chaplin, Lionel Barrymore, Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, Woody Allen (six times), Warren Beatty (twice), Buck Henry, Robert Redford (twice), Richard Attenborough, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Costner, Clint Eastwood (four times), Mel Gibson, Tim Robbins, Roberto Benigni, Ron Howard (twice), Sofia Coppola, and George Clooney.

Now, there’s no question that are some very fine directors on this list and some of them almost never act anymore, but they all were actors first. The reason this becomes important later rather than earlier is that they started actually winning the Oscar instead of just being nominated. Only four of those names predate 1977. The rest are from 77 and later and include 8 Best Director winners (not including Eastwood’s second win).

Imagine how Scorsese felt before he finally won his Oscar. He had directed a film in 1980 that was widely hailed as a brilliant film, yet he had lost the Oscar, the DGA and the Golden Globe to an actor (Robert Redford) making his first film.

Then, in 1990, he made another brilliant film, won the Best Director award from 5 of the 6 major critics groups (New York, LA, Boston, Chicago, National Society) and the BAFTA, but lost the Oscar, the DGA and the Golden Globe to an actor (Kevin Costner) making his first film.

Then, in 2004, he again loses the Oscar, DGA and the Golden Globe to an actor turned director (Clint Eastwood), although at least this time it wasn’t that director’s first film.

By the way, the least likely winners in Oscar history? Carol Reed in 1968, Bob Fosse in 1972, Sydney Pollack in 1985, Steven Soderbergh in 2000 and Roman Polanski in 2002. Since the inception of the DGA in 1948, they are the only four directors to win the Oscar without winning either the DGA or the Golden Globe, although both Fosse and Polanski won the BAFTA.

While Steven Spielberg in 1985 and Ron Howard in 1995 were the only directors to win the DGA without getting an Oscar nomination, they aren’t really the biggest snubs.  They both earned Golden Globe nominations but no critics awards.  On the other hand, in 1995, Ang Lee was nominated by the DGA, Globes and BAFTA and won New York, Boston and the NBR and somehow wasn’t nominated.  The Oscar that year went to Mel Gibson, so, obviously there was something really screwy going on that year.

The biggest slam-dunk winner? Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain. He had won 4 of the 6 major critics groups, the DGA, the BAFTA, the Golden Globe, the BFCA, the Golden Satellite and even the Independent Spirit.

Honor Roll: Short Cuts / Mulholland Drive

Shame Roll: none

(blue won Best Picture, red was nominated for Best Picture and purple received just the one nomination)

1990 AA: Kevin Costner for Dances with Wolves

  • Martin Scorsese for GoodFellas
  • Francis Coppola for The Godfather Part III
  • Stephen Frears for The Grifters
  • Barbet Schroeder for Reversal of Fortune

me: Martin Scorsese for GoodFellas

  • Kevin Costner for Dances with Wolves
  • Joel Coen for Miller’s Crossing
  • Stephen Frears for The Grifters
  • Alan J. Pakula for Presumed Innocent

1991 AA: Jonathan Demme for Silence of the Lambs

  • Oliver Stone for JFK
  • Barry Levinson for Bugsy
  • Ridley Scott for Thelma and Louise
  • John Singelton for Boyz N the Hood

me: Jonathan Demme for Silence of the Lambs

  • Oliver Stone for JFK
  • Terry Gilliam for The Fisher King
  • John Singelton for Boyz N the Hood
  • Agnieszka Holland for Europa, Europa

1992 AA: Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven

  • Neal Jordan for The Crying Game
  • James Ivory for Howards End
  • Martin Brest for Scent of a Woman
  • Robert Altman for The Player

me: Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven

  • Neal Jordan for The Crying Game
  • Michael Mann for Last of the Mohicans
  • Zhang Yimou for Raise the Red Lantern
  • Robert Altman for The Player

1993 AA: Steven Spielberg for Schindler’s List

  • Jane Campion for The Piano
  • James Ivory for The Remains of the Day
  • Jim Sheridan for In the Name of the Father
  • Robert Altman for Short Cuts

me: Steven Spielberg for Schindler’s List

  • Martin Scorsese for The Age of Innocence
  • Jim Sheridan for In the Name of the Father
  • Kenneth Branagh for Much Ado About Nothing
  • Clint Eastwood for A Perfect World

note:  Between 1983 and 2000, only two directors earned back to back Oscar nominations: James Ivory and Robert Altman.  They did it in the same two years and Altman’s film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture in either year.  In 1993, Altman also joined Martin Scorsese and David Lynch as the only directors since 1970 to be the sole Oscar nomination for a film (Lynch did it twice).

1994 AA: Robert Zemeckis for Forrest Gump

  • Quentin Tarantino for Pulp Fiction
  • Robert Redford for Quiz Show
  • Woody Allen for Bullets Over Broadway
  • Krzysztof Kieslowski for Red

me: Tim Burton for Ed Wood

  • Quentin Tarantino for Pulp Fiction
  • Frank Darabont for Shawshank Redemption
  • Peter Jackson for Heavenly Creatures
  • Krzysztof Kieslowski for Red

1995 AA: Mel Gibson for Braveheart

  • Michael Radford for Il Postino
  • Chris Noonan for Babe
  • Michael Figgis for Leaving Las Vegas
  • Tim Robbins for Dead Man Walking

me: Ang Lee for Sense and Sensibility

  • Bryan Singer for The Usual Suspects
  • Terry Gilliam for 12 Monkeys
  • Michael Figgis for Leaving Las Vegas
  • Richard Loncraine for Richard III

note:  People forget now looking back that Braveheart didn’t look that strong before the Oscar nominations.  It hadn’t won any Best Picture awards.  Its major awards were the WGA, Best Director at the Globes and Best Director at the BFCA.  Apollo 13 had won the PGA and DGA.  Sense and Sensibility had won Best Picture from Boston, the NBR and the Globes (and would win the BAFTA).  But then, somehow Ang Lee and Ron Howard failed to earn Oscar nominations and that pretty much sealed their fates.  Academy voters certainly weren’t gonna go for the kids movie or the foreign film.

1996 AA: Anthony Minghella for The English Patient

  • Joel Coen for Fargo
  • Mike Leigh for Secrets and Lies
  • Scott Hicks for Shine
  • Milos Forman for The People vs. Larry Flynt

me: Anthony Minghella for The English Patient

  • John Sayles for Lone Star
  • Joel Coen for Fargo
  • Danny Boyle for Trainspotting
  • Kenneth Branagh for Hamlet

1997 AA: James Cameron for Titanic

  • Curtis Hanson for L.A. Confidential
  • Gus Van Sant for Good Will Hunting
  • Peter Cattaneo for The Full Monty
  • Atom Egoyan for The Sweet Hereafter

me: Curtis Hanson for L.A. Confidential

  • Paul Thomas Anderson for Boogie Nights
  • Ang Lee for The Ice Storm
  • Atom Egoyan for The Sweet Hereafter
  • Quentin Tarantino for Jackie Brown

1998 AA: Steven Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan

  • John Madden for Shakespeare in Love
  • Terrence Malick for The Thin Red Line
  • Roberto Benigni for Life is Beautiful
  • Peter Weir for The Truman Show

me: Steven Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan

  • Steven Soderbergh for Out of Sight
  • Terrence Malick for The Thin Red Line
  • Joel Coen for The Big Lebowski
  • Bill Condon for Gods and Monsters

1999 AA: Sam Mendes for American Beauty

  • Lasse Hallstrom for The Cider House Rules
  • Michael Mann for The Insider
  • M. Night Shyamalan for The Sixth Sense
  • Spike Jonze for Being John Malkovich

me: Sam Mendes for American Beauty

  • Stanley Kubrick for Eyes Wide Shut
  • Paul Thomas Anderson for Magnolia
  • Neil Jordan for The End of the Affair
  • David O. Russell for Three Kings

2000 AA: Steven Soderbergh for Traffic

  • Ridley Scott for Gladiator
  • Ang Lee for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Steven Soderbergh for Erin Brockovich
  • Stephen Daldry for Billy Elliot

me: Ang Lee for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

  • Steven Soderbergh for Traffic
  • Joel Coen for O Brother, Where Art Thou
  • Sofia Coppola for The Virgin Suicides
  • Cameron Crowe for Almost Famous

note:  Interesting to remember that Soderbergh didn’t win either the DGA or the Globe.  Ang Lee won both.  But Soderbergh earned double nominations for both.  Did people seriously think Erin Brockovich was that well directed?

2001 AA: Ron Howard for A Beautiful Mind

  • Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Robert Altman for Gosford Park
  • Ridley Scott for Black Hawk Down
  • David Lynch for Mulholland Drive

me: Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

  • Baz Luhrmann for Moulin Rouge!
  • Jean-Pierre Jounet for Amelie
  • David Lynch for Mulholland Drive
  • Joel Coen for The Man Who Wasn’t There

2002 AA: Roman Polanski for The Pianist

  • Rob Marshall for Chicago
  • Martin Scorsese for Gangs of New York
  • Stephen Daldry for The Hours
  • Pedro Almodovar for Talk to Her

me: Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

  • Martin Scorsese for Gangs of New York
  • Roman Polanski for The Pianist
  • Steven Spielberg for Minority Report
  • Sam Mendes for Road to Perdition

2003 AA: Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

  • Clint Eastwood for Mystic River
  • Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation
  • Peter Weir for Master and Commander: Far Side of the World
  • Fernando Meirelles for City of God

me: Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

  • Clint Eastwood for Mystic River
  • Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation
  • Fernando Meirelles for City of God
  • Jim Sheridan for In America

2004 AA: Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby

  • Martin Scorsese for The Aviator
  • Alexander Payne for Sideways
  • Taylor Hackford for Ray
  • Mike Leigh for Vera Drake

me: Martin Scorsese for The Aviator

  • Jean-Pierre Jeunet for A Very Long Engagement
  • Zhang Yimou for House of Flying Daggers
  • Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby
  • Quentin Tarantino for Kill Bill Volume 2

note:  I was pretty convinced that Picture / Director would go 4 for 5, but I thought Hackford would be dropped for Yimou.  I didn’t think they would drop Marc Forster and certainly didn’t dream they would replace him with Leigh.

2005 AA: Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain

  • Paul Haggis for Crash
  • Steven Spielberg for Munich
  • George Clooney for Good Night and Good Luck
  • Bennett Miller for Capote

me: Steven Spielberg for Munich

  • Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain
  • Peter Jackson for King Kong
  • George Clooney for Good Night and Good Luck
  • David Cronenberg for A History of Violence

note:  First 5 for 5 Picture / Director match since 1981 and they again split the winners.

2006 AA: Martin Scorsese for The Departed

  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Babel
  • Stephen Frears for The Queen
  • Clint Eastwood for Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Paul Greengrass for United 93

me: Martin Scorsese for The Departed

  • Alfonso Cuaron for Children of Men
  • Darren Aronofsky for The Fountain
  • Guillermo del Toro for Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Stephen Frears for The Queen

2007 AA: Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men

  • Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood
  • Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton
  • Jason Reitman for Juno
  • Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

me: Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men

  • Joe Wright for Atonement
  • Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood
  • Julie Taymor for Across the Universe
  • Sidney Lumet for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

2008 AA: Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire

  • David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Gus Van Sant for Milk
  • Stephen Daldry for The Reader
  • Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon

me: Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire

  • Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight
  • Gus Van Sant for Milk
  • Sam Mendes for Revolutionary Road
  • Jonathan Demme for Rachel Getting Married
  • Darren Aronofsky for The Wrestler

note:  First 5 for 5 Picture / Director match with the same winners since 1964.

2009 AA:

  • Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
  • Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds
  • James Cameron for Avatar
  • Jason Reitman for Up in the Air
  • Lee Daniels for Precious

me:  Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds

  • Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
  • Joel and Ethan Coen for A Serious Man
  • Neill Blomkamp for District 9
  • James Cameron for Avatar

Honorary Mentions:

  • 1991: Alan Parker for The Commitments
  • 1994: Robert Redford for Quiz Show
  • 1997: Steven Spielberg for Amistad
  • 2001: Christopher Nolan for Memento
  • 2005: Fernando Meirelles for The Constant Gardener
  • 2006: Paul Greengrass for United 93
  • 2007: David Cronenberg for Eastern Promises

Points:

As I mentioned in the Introduction, I give Best Director 90 points for the win and 45 for the nomination. That being said, here are the top 10 leaders in points all-time, first the Academy list, followed by my own list.

Academy Awards Top 10 Points

  1. William Wyler – 675
  2. Billy Wilder – 450
  3. Frank Capra – 405
  4. (tie) – John Ford – 405
  5. (tie) – David Lean – 405
  6. (tie) – Fred Zinnemann – 405
  7. Steven Spielberg – 360
  8. Elia Kazan – 315
  9. (tie) – George Stevens – 315
  10. (tie) – Woody Allen – 315
  11. (tie) – Martin Scorsese – 315

Nighthawk Awards Top 10 Points

  1. Alfred Hitchcock – 855
  2. Steven Spielberg – 675
  3. Ingmar Bergman – 630
  4. Akira Kurosawa – 585
  5. (tie) – Stanley Kubrick – 585
  6. (tie) – Martin Scorsese – 585
  7. Billy Wilder – 495
  8. (tie) – David Lean – 495
  9. Joel Coen  –  405
  10. Orson Welles – 360
  11. (tie) – John Huston – 360
  12. (tie) – Peter Jackson – 360
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