- Academy Award for Best Director
Academy Award for Best Director Awarded for "Excellence in cinematic direction achievement" Presented by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Country United States First awarded 1929 (for direction in films released during the 1927/1928 film season) Currently held by Tom Hooper,
The King's Speech (2010)
Official website oscars.org
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 each have five nominations without a win. Brown was nominated for two films in 1930 but according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, "As allowed by the award rules for this year, a single nomination could honor work in one or more films." Altman and Vidor received honorary Oscars however, and Hitchcock received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. Martin Scorsese was also 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).
Winners and nominees
Each Academy Award ceremony is listed chronologically below along with the winner of the Academy Award for Directing and the film associated with the award. In the column next to the winner of each award are the other nominees for best director. Following the Academy's practice, the films below are listed by the years of their Los Angeles qualifying run, which is usually (but not always) in the year of release; for example, the Oscar for Best Director of 1999 was announced during the award ceremony held in 2000.
For the first six ceremonies, the eligibility period spanned two calendar years. For example, the 2nd Academy Awards presented on April 3, 1930, recognized films that were released between August 1, 1928 and July 31, 1929. Starting with the 7th Academy Awards, held in 1935, the period of eligibility became the full previous calendar year from January 1 to December 31.
In the first year only, the award was separated into Dramatic Direction and Comedy Direction.
Nominated 1927/28(Dramatic) Frank Borzage
– Seventh Heaven
Herbert Brenon – Sorrell and Son
King Vidor – The Crowd
1927/28(Comedy) Lewis Milestone
– Two Arabian Knights
Ted Wilde – Speedy 1928/29 Frank Lloyd
– The Divine Lady
Lionel Barrymore – Madame X
Harry Beaumont – The Broadway Melody
Irving Cummings – In Old Arizona
Frank Lloyd - Drag and Weary River
Ernst Lubitsch – The Patriot
1929/30 Lewis Milestone
– All Quiet on the Western Front
Clarence Brown – Anna Christie and Romance
Robert Z. Leonard – The Divorcée
Ernst Lubitsch – The Love Parade
King Vidor – Hallelujah
Nominated 2010 Tom Hooper
– The King's Speech
Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen – True Grit
David Fincher – The Social Network
David O. Russell – The Fighter
As the Academy Awards are based in the United States and are centered on the Hollywood film industry, the majority of Academy Award winners have been Americans. Nonetheless, there is significant international presence at the awards, as evidenced by the following list of winners of the Academy Award for Best Director.
- Australia: Mel Gibson, Tom Hooper (Gibson, a U.S. citizen, moved with his family to Australia at the age of 12. Hooper, born in the U.K., is a dual citizen of Australia and the United Kingdom as his mother was born in Australia.)
- Austria: Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann (Both Wilder and Zinnemann moved to America in their twenties and became naturalized U.S. citizens.)
- Canada: James Cameron (Cameron was applying to become a U.S. citizen.)
- Czech Republic: Miloš Forman (naturalized U.S. citizen since 1977)
- Germany: William Wyler, Mike Nichols (After moving to America in 1921, Wyler became a naturalized U.S. citizen in his twenties. Wyler was born in Alsace which was part of the German Empire then, but now is part of France. Nichols' family moved from Germany when he was eight-years old, and he became a naturalized U.S. citizen five years later.)
- Italy: Bernardo Bertolucci
- New Zealand: Peter Jackson
- Poland: Roman Polanski (French citizenship)
- Taiwan: Ang Lee (naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived in America since the early 1980s.)
- United Kingdom: Richard Attenborough, Danny Boyle, David Lean, Sam Mendes, Anthony Minghella, Carol Reed, Tony Richardson, John Schlesinger, and Tom Hooper
However, no director has won for a film that is entirely in a foreign language.
There have been 20 directors nominated for films entirely or significantly in a foreign (non-English) language.
- Federico Fellini (nominated for 4 films, which were all in Italian)
- Ingmar Bergman (nominated for 3 films, which were all in Swedish)
- Pietro Germi (Italian)
- Hiroshi Teshigahara (Japanese)
- Claude Lelouch (French)
- Gillo Pontecorvo (Italian-born director nominated for The Battle of Algiers, which was in French and Arabic)
- Costa Gavras (Greek-born director nominated for French-language film Z.)
- Jan Troell (Swedish)
- François Truffaut (French)
- Lina Wertmuller (Italian)
- Edouard Molinaro (French)
- Wolfgang Petersen (German)
- Akira Kurosawa (Japanese)
- Lasse Hallstrom (Swedish. He was also nominated for the English-language film The Cider House Rules.)
- Krzysztof Kieslowski (Polish-born director nominated for French-language film Three Colours: Red)
- Michael Radford (an English-born director nominated for the Italian-language film Il Postino.)
- Roberto Benigni (Italian)
- Ang Lee (Taiwanese-born director nominated for the Mandarin-language film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He would later win for the English-language film Brokeback Mountain.)
- Pedro Almodóvar (Spanish)
- Fernando Meirelles (Brazilian Portuguese)
- Clint Eastwood (an American director nominated for the Japanese-language film Letters from Iwo Jima, which has a few brief scenes in English).
- Julian Schnabel (an American director nominated for the French-language film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.)
Ironically, internationally known filmmakers Jean Renoir (for The Southerner), Michelangelo Antonioni (for Blowup) and Louis Malle (for Atlantic City) were nominated for films that were in English and not their native language.
Nominations for films primarily in English with some scenes (of a notable length) in a foreign language includes:
- Jules Dassin for Never on Sunday (Greek)
- Bernardo Bertolucci for Last Tango in Paris (French)
- Francis Coppola for The Godfather Part II (Italian) (Winner)
- Kevin Costner for Dances with Wolves (Lakota and Pawnee) (Winner)
- Steven Soderbergh for Traffic (Spanish) (Winner)
- Alejandro González Iñárritu for Babel (Spanish, Arabic, French, Japanese, Japanese Sign Language, Berber)
- Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire (Hindi) (Winner)
- Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds (French, German and Italian)
Several international nominees (regardless of the language used in their respective films) include:
- Australia: Bruce Beresford, Scott Hicks, Chris Noonan and Peter Weir
- Austria: Otto Preminger, Josef von Sternberg
- Brazil: Héctor Babenco, Fernando Meirelles
- Canada: Atom Egoyan, Arthur Hiller, Norman Jewison and Jason Reitman
- Cyprus: Michael Cacoyannis
- France: Claude Lelouch, Louis Malle and François Truffaut
- Germany: William Dieterle, Ernst Lubitsch and Wolfgang Petersen
- Greece: Costa Gavras
- India: M. Night Shyamalan
- Ireland: Jim Sheridan, Neil Jordan and Kenneth Branagh
- Italy: Roberto Benigni, Federico Fellini, Pietro Germi, Gillo Pontecorvo, Lina Wertmüller, Franco Zeffirelli and Michelangelo Antonioni
- Japan: Akira Kurosawa and Hiroshi Teshigahara
- Mexico: Alejandro González Iñárritu
- New Zealand: Jane Campion
- Poland: Krzysztof Kieślowski
- Spain: Pedro Almodóvar
- Sweden: Ingmar Bergman, Lasse Hallström and Jan Troell
- United Kingdom: Alfred Hitchcock, John Boorman, Peter Cattaneo, Charles Crichton, Stephen Daldry, Stephen Frears, Laurence Olivier, Paul Greengrass, Roland Joffé, Mike Leigh, Adrian Lyne, Hugh Hudson, Alan Parker and Ridley Scott
- List of Best Director winners by age
- List of directors with two or more Academy Awards for Best Director
- Oscars.org (official Academy site)
- Oscar.com (official ceremony promotional site)
- The Academy Awards Database (official site)
Academy Awards Merit awards
Best Picture · Best Director · Best Leading Actor · Best Leading Actress · Best Adapted Screenplay · Best Original Screenplay · Best Supporting Actor · Best Supporting Actress · Best Animated Feature · Best Art Direction · Best Cinematography · Best Costume Design · Best Documentary Feature · Best Documentary Short Subject · Best Film Editing · Best Foreign Language Film (Winners and nominees) · Best Makeup · Best Original Score · Best Original Song · Best Animated Short Film · Best Live Action Short Film · Best Sound Mixing · Best Sound Editing · Best Visual Effects
Special awards Retired awards
Best Assistant Director · Best Dance Direction · Best Director of a Comedy Picture · Best Engineering Effects · Best Short Subject, Two-reel · Best Short Subject, Color · Best Short Subject, Novelty · Best Original Musical · Best Original Story · Best Title Writing · Best Unique and Artistic Quality of Production · Academy Juvenile Award
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