A popular actor-turned-director helms a nail-biting crowd-pleaser about a heroic moment in American history and seems well on his way to Oscar glory, only to be unexpectedly snubbed for Best Director. That's the narrative this season for Ben Affleck, whose film "Argo" has experienced the rise, fall, and rise again of an uncharacteristically volatile Oscar season.
But an eerily similar scenario took shape 17 years ago, when Ron Howard's "Apollo 13" was on track for Oscars, but was snubbed for Best Director and subsequently lost Best Picture to "Braveheart" – ironic considering that its director, Mel Gibson, was an A-list Hollywood heartthrob who built artistic cred behind the camera, just like Affleck.
But despite being overlooked by the Oscars, Howard managed to win the Directors Guild Award anyway. Only six times in the guild's 64-year history has the DGA winner differed from Oscar's Best Director. But it's even rarer for the DGA winner not even to be nominated at the Oscars. Steven Spielberg was the only other example: he won DGA for "The Color Purple" in 1985, but was left out of Oscar's lineup.
Affleck could be the third to achieve that rare distinction. He currently gets best odds to win DGA against Oscar favorite Spielberg, who is in the race this year for another historical drama, "Lincoln." And if Affleck does win that prize, Oscar night could be win-win for the burgeoning filmmaker: if "Argo" wins Best Picture, becoming the first film since "Driving Miss Daisy" to do so without a directing bid, Affleck would be rewarded as one of its producers. But if it loses Affleck will get an instant Oscar IOU; after their historic snubs, Spielberg and Howard both went on to win Picture and Director Oscars within 10 years: Spielberg for "Schindler's List" and Howard for "A Beautiful Mind."
Will "Argo" rebound from its Best Director snub and win the Best Picture Oscar that eluded "Apollo 13," or is "Lincoln" too far ahead for any film to catch it?