Directors Guild Awards rewind: Steven Spielberg won in 1985 but was snubbed by Oscars

If Ben Affleck (“Argo“) wins the Directors Guild award on Saturday as our odds predict, no doubt rival nominee Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln“) will reflect on how history repeats itself.

Spielberg won the first of his record three DGA awards in 1985 for helming “The Color Purple.” Like Affleck, he was snubbed by the directors branch of the academy despite his film version of the Alice Walker novel earning 11 Oscar nominations in all. Alas, it ended up tying the record for most losses at the Oscars failing to win even one race, matching the dubious achievement of “The Turning Point” in 1977. 

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Spielberg was the first DGA champ in the then 38-year history of these kudos to not at least contend at the Oscars. Ron Howard became the second in 1995 when he won over his guild for helming “Apollo 13” but found himself out of the running for the Oscar, which went to Mel Gibson, another actor turned director, for “Braveheart.”

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Like “Argo,” Apollo 13″ also won Best Picture from the PGA and SAG Ensemble. However, it lost the Golden Globe (Drama) to “Sense and Sensibility.” While “Apollo 13” was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, “Braveheart” — which was the very first screener ever sent to academy members — won. 

Four more of the 64 DGA winnners — besides Spielberg and Howard — did not also claim Oscars but at least they were nominated by the directors’ branch of the academy: 

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”)

While Spielberg has reaped a record 11 DGA bids, only seven of those translated into Oscar nominations. Below, a list of his DGA nominations, with the Oscar repeats in italics and the DGA wins in gold. All of the men that won the DGA over Spielberg went on to claim the Oscar as well, as did he for “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.” 

1975: “Jaws”; lost to Milos Forman (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”)

1977: “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”; lost to Woody Allen (“Annie Hall”)

1981: “Raiders of the Lost Ark”; lost to Warren Beatty (“Reds”)

1982: “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial”; lost to Richard Attenborough (“Gandhi”)

1985: “The Color Purple”; not nominated for Oscar which went to Sydney Pollack (“Out of Africa”)

1987: “Empire of the Sun”; lost to Bernardo Bertolucci (“The Last Emperor”)

1993: “Schindler’s List”

1997: “Amistad”; lost to James Cameron (“Titanic”)

1998: “Saving Private Ryan”

2005: “Munich”; lost to Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain”) 


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