Academy Award for Best Director
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Academy Award for Achievement in Directing (Best Director), usually known as the Best Director Oscar, is one of the Awards of Merit presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to directors working in the motion picture industry. While nominations for Best Director are made by members in the Academy's Directing branch, the award winners are selected by the Academy membership as a whole.
Throughout the past 83 years, accounting for ties and repeat winners, AMPAS has presented a total of 85 Best Director awards to 65 different directors. At the 1st Academy Awards (1927/1928), there were two directing awards—one for "Dramatic Direction" and one for "Comedy Direction". The Comedy Direction award was eliminated the next year and, indeed, the awards have overwhelmingly favored dramatic films ever since. At both the 34th Academy Awards (1961) and the 80th Academy Awards (2007), Best Director was presented to a co-directing team, rather than to an individual director.
The earliest years of the award were marked by inconsistency and confusion. In the Academy Awards' first year, actors and others such as cinematographers were nominated for all of their films produced during the qualifying period. However, since the directing award was for "directing" rather than "best director", it honored the director in association with only a single film—thus Janet Gaynor has two Frank Borzage films listed after her Best Actress nomination, but only one of them earned Borzage a directing nomination. The second year, the directing award followed the others in listing all of a director's work during the qualifying period, resulting in Frank Lloyd being nominated for three of his films—but, even more confusingly, only one of them was listed on the final award as the film for which he won. Finally, for the 1931 awards, this confusing system was replaced by the current system in which a director is nominated for a single film.
The Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture have been very closely linked throughout their history. Of the 85 films that have been awarded Best Picture, 62 have also been awarded Best Director. Only three films have won Best Picture without their directors being nominated (though only one since the early 1930s): Wings (1927/28), Grand Hotel (1931/32), and Driving Miss Daisy (1989). The only two Best Director winners to win for films which did not receive a Best Picture nomination are likewise in the early years: Lewis Milestone (1927/28) and Frank Lloyd (1928/29).
Due to strict rules promulgated by the Directors Guild of America (DGA), only one individual may claim screen credit as a film's director. (This rule is designed to prevent rights and ownership issues and to eliminate lobbying for director credit by producers and actors.) However, the DGA may create an exception to this "one director per film" rule if two co-directors seeking to share director credit for a film qualify as an "established duo". In the history of the Academy Awards, established duos have been nominated for Best Director only four times: Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (who won for West Side Story in 1961); Warren Beatty and Buck Henry (who were nominated for Heaven Can Wait in 1978), and Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (who won for No Country for Old Men in 2007 and were nominated again in 2010 for True Grit).
The youngest nominee is John Singleton who was 24 years old when he was nominated in 1992 for Boyz N the Hood. The oldest nominee was John Huston who was 79 years old when he was nominated in 1986 for Prizzi's Honor.
Eight people have been nominated for both Best Director and Best Actor for the same film. Warren Beatty did so twice (Heaven Can Wait and Reds), as did Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby). The other six included: Orson Welles (Citizen Kane), Laurence Olivier (Hamlet), Woody Allen (Annie Hall), Kenneth Branagh (Henry V), Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves), and Roberto Benigni (Life Is Beautiful). No one has ever won both awards. Four won Best Director, but not Best Actor: Allen, Beatty (for Reds), Costner, and Eastwood (on both occasions). Two won Best Actor, but not Best Director: Benigni and Olivier. Finally, three lost both nominations: Beatty (for Heaven Can Wait), Branagh, and Welles (though he did win a Screenplay Oscar for Citizen Kane).
The only siblings to both be nominated are Joel and Ethan Coen, who shared nominations for No Country for Old Men (2007) and True Grit (2010). Previously, only Joel was nominated, for Fargo, in 1997. The only parent-child pair to be nominated are Francis Ford and Sofia Coppola.
Two pairs of previously married couples were nominated. Winners Kathryn Bigelow (who won in 2010) and James Cameron (who won in 1998) were previously married from 1989 to 1991. Both were nominated in 2010, the year in which Bigelow won. Another pair that have each been nominated are Sofia Coppola (nominated in 2004) and Spike Jonze, though neither won. They divorced in 2003.
No Best Director winning film is lost, though the nominee The Patriot is lost and nominee Sorrell and Son is incomplete. Drag (one of the films for which Frank Lloyd was nominated but did not win in 1929) has long been presumed lost, though there are rumors of its survival, possibly only on videotape, and the Vitaphone discs of its soundtrack survive. The Comedy Direction winner, Two Arabian Knights, was believed lost for many years but was preserved in the Howard Hughes archive and has been broadcast (along with another first-year nominee produced by Hughes and believed lost, The Racket) on Turner Classic Movies.
Robert Altman, Clarence Brown, Alfred Hitchcock, and King Vidor are tied for the most nominations - five a piece - without a win. Though Altman and Vidor received honorary Oscars, and Hitchcock received the Thalberg award. Martin Scorsese was nominated five times without winning before receiving the award for his sixth nomination.
Only two directors have received consecutive Best Director awards: John Ford for 1940's The Grapes of Wrath and 1941's How Green Was My Valley, and Joseph L. Mankiewicz for 1949's A Letter to Three Wives and 1950's All About Eve.
Only one person has won the award without directing another film before or after winning: Jerome Robbins (who shared the award with co-director Robert Wise, for West Side Story).
No African-American has ever won best director, and only two have ever been nominated: John Singleton for 1991's Boyz n the Hood and Lee Daniels for 2009's Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire.
Ang Lee is the only Asian (and non-Caucasian) to have won the prize, for 2005's Brokeback Mountain. Other Asian nominees are Hiroshi Teshigahara for Woman of the Dunes, Akira Kurosawa for Ran, and M. Night Shyamalan for The Sixth Sense.
Kathryn Bigelow, with 2009's The Hurt Locker, is the only woman to have ever won Best Director. Other female nominees are Lina Wertmüller for 1976's Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for 1993's The Piano and Sofia Coppola for 2003's Lost in Translation.
Four people known to be LGBT have won the award: Jerome Robbins for West Side Story, Tony Richardson for Tom Jones, George Cukor for My Fair Lady and John Schlesinger for Midnight Cowboy. At least seven others have been nominated: Pedro Almodóvar, Lee Daniels, Stephen Daldry, James Ivory, Rob Marshall, Gus Van Sant and Franco Zeffirelli.
The earliest nominee still alive is Michael Anderson, nominated in 1957, who is also the oldest still alive, born in 1920. Currently the oldest winner alive is Richard Attenborough, who was born in 1923. The earliest winner alive is Mike Nichols, who won in 1968, making him the only pre-1970s best director winner left. (Robert Wise who won twice in the 1960s died in 2005.) The last 1950s winner of Best Director to die was Delbert Mann (won 1956, died 2007).
The following 87 directors (counting Joel and Ethan Coen as one) have received multiple Best Director nominations. The list is sorted by the number of total awards (with the number of total nominations listed in parentheses).