Boyle still bubbling

'Slumdog' helmer adds DGA nod to honors

The Little Movie That Could can do no wrong. Danny Boyle was handed the DGA Award for outstanding directorial achievement in feature film for "Slumdog Millionaire," walking away with the honor Saturday during the directors guild's annual awards ceremony.

Also nominated were David Fincher ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), Gus Van Sant ("Milk"), Christopher Nolan ("The Dark Knight") and Ron Howard ("Frost/Nixon"), who won the award in 1995 and 2001. It was Boyle's first DGA nomination.

"If I can get here, you can get here," Boyle said from the podium at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, with the presenting Coen brothers behind him. "Dream hard."

It has been a miracle year for Boyle, the British director whose films include "Shallow Grave," "Trainspotting," "A Life Less Ordinary," "The Beach," "28 Days Later …," "Millions" and "Sunshine." He already has been named the year's best director by several critics groups and also took the top director prize at the Golden Globes.

"Slumdog" almost didn't make it into theaters when Warner Independent folded until audiences at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals responded to its heartwarming story of a Mumbai street orphan with a shot at 20 million rupees. Fox Searchlight subsequently picked up and distributed the film, which has grossed more than $75 million worldwide and earned 10 Oscar nominations.

The DGA Award for feature film traditionally is an excellent predictor of the Oscar race. Only six times since 1948, when the guild began handing out awards, has the nod gone to a director who didn't subsequently win the Oscar.

The 81st Annual Academy Awards will be handed out Feb. 22.

Recent DGA Award winners include Joel and Ethan Coen in 2007 for "No Country for Old Men," Martin Scorsese in 2006 for "The Departed," Ang Lee in 2005 for "Brokeback Mountain" and Clint Eastwood in 2004 for "Million Dollar Baby."

A troupe of A-list presenters that included Sean Penn, Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Michelle Monaghan and Claire Danes delivered the rest of the night's awards.

Ari Folman won for directorial achievement in documentary for "Waltz With Bashir," which also is up for the foreign-language film Oscar. Jay Roach took home outstanding directorial achievement in movies for television/miniseries for the HBO movie "Recount," about the disputed 2000 presidential election.

Outstanding directorial achievement in a comedy series went to Paul Feig for the "Dinner Party" episode of NBC's "The Office," while the dramatic series award went to Dan Attias for the "Transitions" episode of HBO's "The Wire."

Amy Schatz won outstanding directorial achievement in children's programs for HBO's "Classical Baby (I'm Grown Up Now): The Poetry Show," her third DGA victory. Tony Croll took the award for directorial achievement in reality programs for the CW's "America's Next Top Model," his second DGA win.

Peter Thwaites won for directorial achievement in commercials, Larry Carpenter won for directorial achievement in daytime serials and Brent (Bucky) Gunts won for directorial achievement in musical variety for NBC's coverage of the Opening Ceremony at the Beijing Olympics.

The most moving moment of the night came when DGA president Michael Apted presented film critic Roger Ebert with the Honorary Life Member Award for recognition of outstanding creative achievement or contribution to the guild or the profession of directing. Ebert, who recently lost the ability to speak because of thyroid cancer complications, received two standing ovations and a montage of praising clips.

The guild handed out three other special awards. National vp Steven Soderbergh presented DGA assistant secretary/treasurer/ associate director Scott Berger with the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award for recognition of career achievement in the industry and service to the DGA.

DGA second vp/director William Brady received the Robert B. Aldrich Award for extraordinary service to the DGA and its membership, and board member/unit production manager Kim Kurumada received the Frank Capra Achievement Award in recognition of career achievement in the industry and guild service. (partialdiff)