Inside the DGA Awards: Alfonso Cuaron Wins, Steven Soderbergh Gets a Surprise

Alfonso Cuaron and Ben Affleck DGA H

The "Gravity" director topped the 66th annual event, which featured appearances by Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks and Bradley Cooper.

The 66th annual Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards unfolded in four-and-a-half hours on Saturday, Jan. 25, with a few surprises, several standing ovations and the top honor going to Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron.

Cuaron was announced as the final winner of the night, but each of the five nominated film directors -- Cuaron, Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) and Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street) -- was honored with a presentation and a medallion at different points throughout the night.

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On the TV side, Breaking Bad's Vince Gilligan was honored with the dramatic series award, while Beth McCarthy-Miller (30 Rock) received the award for comedy series. (See the complete list of DGA winners here.)

The event, hosted by Glee star Jane Lynch (the show's first non-director host, and the first female host), returned to the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza after three years at Hollywood & Highland.

It was also the first DGA Awards with new president Paris Barclay at the helm. Before the show, he told THR that it would be an exciting show. "We're going to do some things we haven't done in a while," he said with a sparkle in his eyes.

One of those "things" was a top-secret, surprise maneuver that occurred about halfway through the show. Barclay took the stage, and then invited the two prior DGA presidents -- Taylor Hackford and Michael Apted -- to join him onstage. He then revealed that the DGA had secretly decided to award the Robert B. Aldrich Award to director Steven Soderbergh -- but they had chosen to keep it a surprise because they feared the infamously limelight-shy director would not have shown up if he'd known he'd be honored.

Soderbergh, who was nominated for his HBO movie Behind the Candelabra (he won later that night), received a standing ovation as he accepted his surprise award. He revealed that when he started out in his career, he had been reluctant to join the Guild, but, over the years, it had become an important part of his life. "I've been proud to be a part of it. It means a lot. Thank you," he said.

One of the other strongest standing ovations came a bit later in the night when Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers took the stage to receive the Diversity Award. Rhimes, who created TV's Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal, gave a passionate speech about how both she and Beers were a "little pissed off" that there would even need to be an award for practicing diversity because it should be something that everyone in Hollywood is doing. "It's fairly shameful that there's a lack of diversity in Hollywood in 2014," she said.

"The lack of diversity in Hollywood is not because of a lack of talent," said Rhimes. "It's because of a lack of access."

DGA Awards: The Winners

The awards ceremony was a star-studded event, with several director's stars in attendance to present them their honors. Sandra Bullock, wearing a form-fitting black Roland Mouret dress, sat next to Cuaron at their stage-side table, along with Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara and Sue Kroll, president, worldwide marketing and international distribution. Ben Affleck, who was on hand to present the award for best feature director, snuck out from backstage to sit at the Warner Bros./Cuaron table for the second half of the show.

Bullock made a few jokes about Cuaron's thick accent during shooting, but then praised him for his bravery and imagination. "You not only gave me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but you gave it to me when I thought I had nothing left to offer as an actor," she said.

The director charmed the crowd when he took the stage to talk about the long journey of getting the film made. He revealed that there had been many problematic test shoots and test screenings. "I barely understand how we did the film," he said, getting some laughs.

Tom Hanks presented Greengrass' medallion to him for Captain Phillips. "He had a faith that was fascinating, brave and somewhat mysterious," said Hanks of working with his director on his film.

Greengrass, for his part, joked that all the studio executives in the room wouldn't want to work with him now that Hanks had revealed his tendency to spend half of shooting days going through rehearsals. He went on to thank his directing team and producers for working with him on his "vomit-drenched adventure."

Sarah Paulson presented McQueen with his medallion for 12 Years a Slave, joking that she wasn't always sure what McQueen was saying due to his heavy accent.

But she added: "When a director looks you in the eye and says you cannot fail, it gives you the freedom to trust yourself."

McQueen talked to the crowd about first discovering the book 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup. "Every turn of the page was a revelation," he said.

For Russell's award, his star Bradley Cooper took the stage early on in the night, while Rob Reiner -- a longtime friend of Scorsese's -- presented for the Wolf of Wall Street director.

Reiner told the crowd he was taken aback when Scorsese had offered him a part in the film.

"I don't know what is more unbelievable -- that Leonardo DiCaprio is a Jew or that I'm his father," he joked.


Complete list of DGA Awards winners below: 

Alfonso Cuaron --  Gravity (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Cuarón’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Manager: David Siegel (Arizona Unit)
First Assistant Directors: Josh Robertson, Stephen Hagen (Arizona Unit)
Second Assistant Director: Ben Howard

Vince Gilligan -- Breaking Bad, "Felina" (AMC)
Gilligan's Directorial Team:
Unit Production Manager: Stewart A. Lyons
Assistant Unit Production Manager: James Paul Hapsas
First Assistant Director: Nina Jack
Second Assistant Directors: Anna Ramey, Louis Lanni
Second Second Assistant Director: Joann Connolly
Additional Second Assistant Director: Marcia Woske

Steven Soderbergh -- Behind the Candelabra (HBO)
Soderbergh's Directorial Team:
Unit Production Manager: Michael Polaire
First Assistant Director: Gregory Jacobs
Second Assistant Director: Jody Spilkoman
Second Second Assistant Director: Lynn Struiksma

Beth McCarthy-Miller -- 30 Rock, "Hogcock!/Last Lunch" (NBC)
McCarthy-Miller's Directorial Team:
Unit Production Manager: Diana Schmidt
First Assistant Director: Stephen Lee Davis
Second Assistant Director: Vanessa Hoffman
Assistant UPM: Bill Sell

Jehane Noujaim-- The Square (Netflix)

Don Roy King -- Saturday Night Live, "Saturday Night Live With Host Justin Timberlake" (NBC)
King's Directorial Team:
Associate Directors: Michael Mancini, Michael Poole, Matt Yonks, Bob Caminiti
Stage Managers: Gena Rositano , Chris Kelly

Amy Schatz -- An Apology to Elephants (HBO)

Glenn Weiss  -- The 67th Annual Tony Awards (CBS)
Weiss' Directorial Team:
Associate Directors: Ken Diego, Robin Abrams, Stefani Cohen, Ricky Kirshner
Stage Managers: Garry Hood, Phyllis Digilio-Kent, Peter Epstein, Andrew Feigin, Lynn Finkel, Doug Fogel, Jeffry Gitter, Arthur Lewis, Jeffrey M. Markowitz, Joey Meade, Seth Mellman, Tony Mirante, Cyndi Owgang, Jeff Pearl, Elise Reaves, Lauren Class Schneider

Neil P. DeGroot -- 72 Hours, "The Lost Coast" (TNT)

Martin de Thurah -- Human Race, Acura MDX 2014 -- Mullen
First Assistant Director: Jey Wada
Second Assistant Director: Dillon Neaman
Second Second Assistant Director: Erin Stern


Steven Soderbergh -- Robert B. Aldrich Service Award
In recognition of extraordinary service to the Directors Guild of America and to its membership.

Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers -- DGA Diversity Award
In recognition of their commitment to diversity hiring and providing jobs and opportunities to women and minorities in DGA-covered categories.

Lee Blaine -- Frank Capra Achievement Award
Given to an Assistant Director or Unit Production Manager in recognition of career achievement in the industry and service to the Directors Guild of America.

Vincent DeDario -- Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award
Given to an Associate Director or Stage Manager in recognition of career achievement in the industry and service to the Directors Guild of America.


Twitter: @Beccamford