At the 55th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards, Martin Scorsese took home an honor of a lifetime. But another guy took home the honor of the night.
Rob Marshall, who made credible song-and-dance stars of Renée Zellweger and Richard Gere in Chicago, was named Best Director by his "Action!"-shouting peers Saturday at Los Angeles' Century Plaza Hotel.
Marshall's win, for his first ever film, left veterans Scorsese, nominated for Gangs of New York, and Roman Polanski, up for The Pianist, still in search of their first ever DGA. Scorsese, the Golden Globes' pick for Best Director, wasn't completely snubbed, presented with the DGA's lifetime achievement award, the union's highest honor, for a résumé that includes Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.
While an honorary plaque is nice, it won't help Scorsese's odds of claiming his first ever Oscar in three weeks.
As winner of the DGA's top competitive prize, it's the 42-year-old Marshall who now formally occupies the frontrunner seat for the Best Director Academy Award. As the oft-cited line goes, only five times since 1949 has the DGA winner failed to duplicate the feat at the Academy Awards.
On Saturday, Marshall wasn't talking about Oscar odds (even if his film is up for a lucky 13 statuettes). He was talking about history.
His acceptance speech saluted the pioneers of the movie musical, directors such as Vincente Minnelli (An American in Paris), and the pioneer of the Chicago stage show, Bob Fosse.
"I stand here because of them," Marshall said.
The living-in-exile Polanski didn't stand anywhere near the Century Plaza, but he was there in spirit, and, earlier in the day, in video form.
The Polish-born filmmaker, who has called Paris home since fleeing a statutory rape rap in California in 1977, appeared at a DGA panel via satellite--a rare, if distant, public appearance.
Polanski was not asked, nor did he talk about, the judicial matters that have kept him from making Hollywood films in Hollywood for more than 25 years. Instead, it was his Holocaust drama that dominated discussion.
"Obviously, the whole film is about survival," Polanski said. "For me, it was the preponderant theme of my childhood and youth."
While the DGA allowed Polanski a virtual window into its events, Academy Award organizers have said they will not hook up a satellite feed for Polanski in the event of a win for The Pianist.
Carl Reiner emceed Saturday night's ceremony. Presenters included two of Marshall's Chicago crew, Zellweger and John C. Reilly, and last year's DGA winner, Ron Howard.
With the DGAs wrapped, the number of Oscar tune-ups is (finally) dwindling. Still to come: The Producers Guild of America Awards, with voters revealing their pick for best film Sunday night; the Writers Guild of America Awards, honoring screenwriters, on March 8; and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, giving props to thespian types, on March 9.
The 75th Annual Academy Awards are set for March 23 at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre.
The Best Director field for the Oscars will be a replay of the Best Director field for the DGAs, with one exception: Peter Jackson earned a DGA nod, but not an Oscar nod, for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Spain's Pedro Almodovar (Talk to Her) has the fifth slot at the Oscars.
The other DGA/Oscar nominee: The Hours' Stephen Daldry.
The DGA Awards also honor TV, with directors for HBO's The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm taking honors for drama and comedy series, respectively.