A visibly emotional Alejandro G. Inarritu accepted the award for outstanding directorial achievement in feature film for his work on The Revenant at the 68th annual Directors Guild Awards, which were held Saturday night at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.
Traditionally, the winner of the previous year's DGA Award does the honors of announcing the new year's winner, but this year Tom Hooper, who won the award in 2011 for The King's Speech, was drafted to open the envelope, since Inarritu himself won the award last year for Birdman and this year was nominated again — alongside Spotlight's Tom McCarthy, The Big Short's Adam McKay, Mad Max: Fury Road's George Miller and The Martian's Ridley Scott.
Judging from the applause level in the room as the nominees' names were read, Miller was the popular favorite, but in the end, it was Inarritu who was called to the stage, becoming the first director to ever win back-to-back DGA Awards.
Choking back tears, Inarritu noted, "Tough men don't cry. That's what Ridley Scott said today, and he's right." But the filmmaker appeared overcome as he acknowledged his father, who died two years ago, saying, "I think he's getting some business up there to make this happen, and I miss him a lot." The Mexico-born director spoke of visiting the hotel's kitchen, where "there were more than 120 Mexicans that serve you hot food, and that was the best party I ever had — that's not the people that Donald Trump has described at all." Inarritu went on to say, "This hug, this embrace you're giving to me today, is going to a whole country, a whole Latin American community in this country. The people who live here contribute a lot to this country."
The DGA Award is considered one of the key harbingers of Oscar victory, since there have been only seven occasions in the history of the award when the DGA winner has not gone on to win the Oscar for best director. The suspense was particularly high this year since no one picture has emerged as the obvious Oscar frontrunner. While the Golden Globe for best drama went to The Revenant (and the best comedy Globe was awarded to The Martian), each of the guilds have chosen a different film. The Producers Guild of America gave its top prize to The Big Short and the Screen Actors Guild Award for best ensemble went to Spotlight. But the DGA Award now gives a boost to Paramount, New Regency and Plan B's The Revenant, the tale of a 19th century fur trader fighting for his life.
The top television awards — a sweep for HBO — were presented to David Nutter in the dramatic series category for the "Mother's Mercy" episode of Game of Thrones; Chris Addison in the comedy series race for the "Election Night" episode of Veep; and Dee Rees in movies for television/miniseries for Bessie, the biopic about Bessie Smith.
The award for best documentary feature directing went to Matthew Heineman for Cartel Land, which looks at vigilante groups fighting the drug cartels on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. "I hope that this film will give voice to those trapped by the cycle of violence in hopes that one day the cycle will end," said Heineman.
The DGA also introduced a new award this year, a prize for a first-time feature film director, and Steven Spielberg was on hand to present the inaugural prize to writer-turned-director Alex Garland for Ex Machina, his sci-fi tale of an android on the verge of consciousness. In his acceptance, Garland cited Steven Soderbergh as his inspiration, calling him "a lighthouse who's shown the way."
Prolific and influential commercial director Joe Pytka was honored with the guild's lifetime achievement award in television, and later in the evening, when Scott appeared onstage to accept his nomination, he gave a shout-out to both Pytka and his late brother Tony Scott as the two most influential directors in his life.
The DGA also presented its Franklin J. Schaffner Award to Tom McDermott and its Frank Capra Award to Mary Rae Thewlis.
In his welcoming remarks, DGA president Paris Barclay alluded to diversity, the issue of the day, by speaking of the importance of convincing "the industry that equal opportunity means just that. Equal opportunity means a level playing field." Jane Lynch, who served as the evening's emcee, drew applause when she pointed out that 14 of the evening's nominees were women. And James Corden, who served as a presenter, got one of the night's biggest laughs when he suggested that because of the disparity in pay offered to men and women, "Eddie Redmayne had to take a pay cut halfway through The Danish Girl."