The Power of the Dog helmer Jane Campion won the marquee Theatrical Feature Film prize at the 74th annual DGA Awards, which were handed tonight at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. Check out the winners list below.
The win solidifies her as the front-runner for Best Director at the Academy Awards on March 27. Campion won an Original Screenplay Oscar for 1993’s The Piano and was up for Best Director that year.
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The DGAs are an important bellwether in the Oscar race: Only seven times since the marquee Theatrical Feature Film award’s inception in 1949 has the winner differed from the eventual Oscar winner for Directing. Last year was no exception as nomadland‘s Chloé Zhao took the DGA’s top film prize en route to her historic Oscar win for Best Director. But in 2020, Sam Mendes won the DGA Award before the Oscar went to Bong Joon-ho.
This year, the Academy Award field doesn’t match up exactly with the DGA’s Theatrical Feature Film nominees. Branagh, Anderson, Campion and Spielberg are up for both prizes, but the DGA’s fifth nom went to Villeneuve. Despite that film being up for 10 Oscars, Best Direction is not one of them. Instead, the Academy nominated Ryusuke Hamaguchi for Drive My Car.
At the center of The Power of the Dog is Montana rancher Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch), a charismatic but unflinchingly cruel figure who dominates his ranch hands. When his gentler brother George (Jesse Plemons) marries, Phil levels his brutal, bullying sights on George’s wife Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and her sensitive son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). But Phil’s toxic barrage disguises an agonizing inner struggle, which once exposed, could be his undoing.
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Elsewhere tonight, Maggie Gyllenhaal took the First Time Feature Film award for helming Netflix’s The Lost Daughter. The evening’s first film prize, for Documentary, went to Stanley Nelson for Showtime’s Attica.
On the TV side, Mark Mylod won Dramatic Series for the “All the Bells Say” episode HBO’s Succession. The show had five of the six nominations in the category, with The White Lotus snaring the other.
“When I first came here [to America], things were quite low in my personal life,” he said onstage. “Coming to work here and joining the DGA literally did change my life. So thank you to all of you and thank you to that institution. I wish Britain could have something as strong, and I hope it will one day.
Barry Jenkins scooped the TV Movie or Limited Series DGA Award for Amazon’s The Underground Railroad, and Lucia Aniello took the Comedy Series award for an episode of HBO Max’s hacks.
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On the red carpet earlier, Campion responded to Sam Elliott’s widely reported criticism of her movie The Power of the Dog by saying he “hit the trifecta of misogyny and xenophobia and homophobia.”
But on with the show, hosted again by Judd Apatow.
DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter opened the ceremony with a look ahead to the “exceptional challenges” of next year’s film and TV contract talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. Read her full remarks here.
Presenting the night’s first award, for Children’s Program, Better Things creator-star Pamela Adlon said of the longtime Sesame Street actor who died this week: “I have to give a shout-out to Emilio Delgado, who played Luis. Alegria para siempre. Did I say it right? I don’t know.” (She did.)
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Aldon then presented the award to Smriti Mundhra for HBO Max’s Through Our Eyes.
Don Roy King scored a win for NBC’s Saturday Night Live in the Variety/Talk/News/Sports Regularly Scheduled Programming category. It was for the episode hosted by Keegan-Michael Key late last season. Paul Dugdale won the Variety/Talk/News/Sports Specials award for CBS’ Adele: One Night Only.
Adam Vetri took the Reality Program prize for directing Discovery Channel’s Getaway Driver. “On this show, it’s not a typical reality show,” he said. “It’s a big show, it’s a dangerous show — high-speed car chases, stunts, pyro and explosions. The importance of a proper DGA AD team cannot be overstated.”
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Each director nominated for the Theatrical Feature Film award was presented with a medallion and gave a speech at the podium. (Belfast‘s Kenneth, who is in London for the BAFTAS on Sunday, gave a taped address.)
Up first tonight was Campion.
“We often hear this time of year about ‘first this’ and ‘second that’ — glass ceilings that are left shattered left and right in this industry,” she said. “The road here has been long. I remember being the only woman in the room. I remember that outsider feeling as I fought to get my stories told, to bring dynamic stories from underserved perspectives to light. I think it’s perhaps a time to claim a sense of victory on that front. We’ve come so far and what’s more, we’re never going backwards. That sense of the eternal horizon, that spectrum of possibility invigorates me. I hope it invigorates you as well.”
Dunes helmer Denis Villeneuve was next, and he described seeing Steven Spielberg’s Duel at 7 and being afraid to see jaws at 8. “I wondered who was the magician who transformed trucks into bullies and station wagons into sharks. Then I saw a film that moved me to the core. I had seen those dark clouds before … [Close Encounters of the Third Kind] felt like home to me. As the credits rolled, I knew the way I want to live my life. I will transform cars into fishes, bad guys into turbo engines and Christmas trees into spaceships. I will try to become a film director.
“For where I come from, kids had famous hockey players’ names on their jerseys,” the French-Canadian filmmaker continued. “It gave them courage against the enemy. So a few days later when I decided I would try to become a filmmaker, I went back on the ice rink with a new name on my shirt: Spielberg. I was still the worst hockey player of all time, but I had a purpose. I had a goal and I had found a way to make sense of my life.
“Mr. Spielberg, you are a giant for me,” Villeneuve said. “I’m here tonight because of you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you brought and what you are still bringing to this day to the cinema.”
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Coincidentally, Spielberg was the next Theatrical Feature Film nominee to take the stage, and he spoke about Rita Moreno — who won an Oscar for playing Maria in the 1961 original pic. “During rehearsal, she inspired 60 dancers with stories of her upbringing, making people understand why we needed to reimagine West Side Story,” he said. “It was really scary taking this on. It was terrifying. I gave up a whole bunch of times. Every single time I said, ‘This is just too dangerous. What If I really f*ck this up?’ kate [Capshaw] read the script with me. When we read scripts together, Kate and I share pages. … At the end of it, Kate said, ‘You’re making this movie.’ When I would go to her and say, ‘I can’t make this movie.’ She’d say: ‘We don’t want to talk about this anymore. You’re making this picture.’”
Said Licorice Pizza helmer Anderson from the podium: “Steven, you’ve got enough attention tonight, but every time you’re in the room it’s impossible not to just go to you. It’s amazing to be with Jane and Denis and Ken. Most of all, I know that we all love our ADs that we work with, but I love mine more than anybody else loves theirs. He’s right there, Adam [Somner] is the best.”
Spike Lee was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Achievement in Motion Picture Direction. He dedicated the award to his grandfather’s sister’s son, Maceo A. Walker, whom he found through having made Miracle at St. Anna.
“He was in Company 1, 3rd Battalion, 366 infantry regiment, 92nd infantry division, one of the Buffalo Soldiers, private 1st class,” Lee said. “He was killed in action on February 10th, 1945. He was only 20 years old. Here’s another example of how African Americans have fought and died for this country. We love a country that always hasn’t loved us. So this award goes to Pvt. 1st Class Maceo A. Walker.”
Lee also noted that when he joined the Directors Guild, he ordered the backpack and hat from the DGA catalog and wore them with pride. He said he still has them in tatters.
Joseph Reidy and Garry Hood received Special DGA Awards tonight for their contributions to the guild.
Here are the winners at the 74th DGA Awards:
THEATRICAL FEATURE FILM
MOVIES FOR TELEVISION AND LIMITED SERIES
The Underground Railroad
FIRST-TIME FEATURE FILM DIRECTOR
VARIETY/TALK/NEWS/SPORTS – REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING
VARIETY/TALK/NEWS/SPORTS – SPECIALS
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