If Clint Eastwood pulls off an upset at Saturday’s Directors Guild Awards could that put “American Sniper” on the path to a Best Picture win at the Academy Awards. After all, Ben Affleck did just that two years ago, taking home this prize for helming “Argo” and then seeing his film win the top Oscar even though he was not nominated by the directors branch of the academy.
Yes, Eastwood is a long-shot, sitting in third place in our rankings at 50/1. That puts him well back of Richard Linklater, a clear favorite at 1/5 for his 12-year committment to “Boyhood” and second-place Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who is at 9/1 for the bravura “Birdman.”
But remember, the directors guild is huge. Its 14,500 members include helmers of TV fare and commercials as well as feature films. And they are scattered about the country, including all those red states where Eastwood and his film, which just topped $250 million, are revered.
Our fearless leader Tom O’Neil and Awards Daily founder Sasha Stone think that Eastwood, a two-time DGA champ (“Unforgiven,” 1992; “Million Dollar Baby,” 2004) could pull off the hat trick. As Sasha says in their podcast (an absolute must-listen): “Yes, Clint can win DGA. He’s in his 80s. They want to pay him that respect. To them, he’s god. We just don’t know what academy members are thinking about ‘American Sniper.’ Is it getting hurt by controversy and the endorsement of Sarah Palin?”
“Argo” was only the third film in the 85-year history of the Oscars to win Best Picture without a corresponding Best Director bid; the others were “Grand Hotel” (1931/32) and “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989).
And Affleck was the third DGA winner to be snubbed by the Oscars. The first was Steven Spielberg who won the first of his record three DGA awards in 1985 for helming “The Color Purple.” Despite his film version of the Alice Walker novel earning 11 Oscar nominations in all, he was shut out of the directors’ race. Alas, it ended up tying the record for most losses at the Oscars failing to win even one award, matching the dubious achievement of “The Turning Point” in 1977.
In 1995, Ron Howard became the second DGA champ that didn’t get an invite to the Oscars. He won over his guild for helming “Apollo 13” but found himself out of the running for the Oscar. As did “Argo,” Apollo 13″ won Best Picture at the PGA as well SAG Ensemble. However, it lost the Golden Globe (Drama) to “Sense and Sensibility.” And while “Apollo 13” was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, “Braveheart” — which was the very first screener ever sent to academy members — won as did its director, Mel Gibson.
Four more of the 66 DGA champs did not also claim Oscars but at least they were nominated:
1968: DGA to Anthony Harvey (“The Lion in Winter”), Oscar to Carol Reed (“Oliver!”)
1972: DGA to Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather”), Oscar to Bob Fosse (“Cabaret”)
2000: DGA to Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), Oscar to Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”)
2002: DGA to Rob Marshall (“Chicago”), Oscar to Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”)
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