“Breaking Bad” continued its streak of racking up hardware after wrapping up its five-season run, when show creator Vince Gilligan picked up the honor of outstanding directorial achievement in dramatic series at the 66th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards.
Gilligan took the DGA for the concluding episode, “Felina.” One of his four competitors in the category was the show’s star Bryan Cranston, for directing the “Blood Money” episode during the epic final season. The other contenders nominated for directing some of television’s most lauded dramas were David Fincher (“House of Cards”), Lesli Linka Glatter (“Homeland”) and David Nutter ("Game of Thrones”).
The multi-talented, cross-genre Cranston was also a nominee in the comedy series category for an episode of “Modern Family.” The award went to Beth McCarthy-Miller for directing an episode of another dearly departed show, “30 Rock.”
Director Don Roy King took the prize in the regularly scheduled variety/talk/news/sports category for “Saturday Night Live with Host Justin Timberlake.”
The movies and miniseries for television category had directors of three HBO programs (“Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” “Phil Spector” and “Behind the Candelabra”) vying against those who helmed National Geographic Channel’s “Killing Kennedy” and NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live!”
It was Steven Soderbergh, who was also honored with the Robert B. Aldrich Service Award, who took the gold medallion for the celebrated Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra.” “The best way to describe the people I worked with on this are performance-enhancers,” he said of his directing team.
Soderbergh, a previous nominee for “Traffic” and “Erin Brockovich,” can now add the DGA to the Emmy Award he won for “Candelabra,” which he originally intended as a feature film but could not get financed.
Egyptian-born filmmaker Jehane Noujaim was awarded outstanding directorial achievement in documentary for Netflix’s “The Square,” which chronicles the revolution that overthrew Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak through the eyes of six protestors.
“You have to believe in the impossible,” she said, and noted that her film was not cleared for release in Egypt yet was pirated, copied and uploaded 750,000 times in the last few days. Normally creators don’t condone piracy, but under those circumstances, she seemed pleased that her film is getting seen in her home country.
Alfonso Cuarón may not be a master of the art of speaking English, according to his “Gravity” leading lady Sandra Bullock, but he clearly demonstrated his proficiency in directing by taking the DGA’s top prize.
With Bullock encased in a 9’ x 9’ lightbox for hours on end to shoot her astronaut scenes in the blockbuster drama, she had only Cuarón’s voice to guide her. “But I didn’t understand any of the words he was saying, whether it was ‘ice’ or ‘eyes,’” she told the black-tie audience of 1,600 at the Hyatt Regency’s Century Plaza Hotel’s California Ballroom Saturday night. Previously, Bullock, who is up for a lead actress Oscar for her performance, had remarked on not being able to differentiate his pronunciations of “herpes” and “earpiece.”
The untelevised Directors Guild of America ceremony ran longer than Martin Scorsese’s three-hour “The Wolf of Wall Street” — with seemingly none of its f-bombs — and Scorsese appeared visibly disappointed at not winning the feature directing trophy, whose contenders also included Paul Greengrass (“Captain Phillips”), Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and David O. Russell (“American Hustle”).
The show has a unique format among awards galas. Yes, there are cocktails and dinner after a red carpet, but each of the feature film directors up for the highest honor has time in the spotlight while being lauded by a high-profile participant involved in their project under consideration.
This year, they were all actors — Tom Hanks for Greengrass, Sarah Paulson for McQueen, Bradley Cooper for Russell, Rob Reiner for Scorsese and Bullock for Cuarón — who bestowed their directors with a golden medallion, giving real currency to the throwaway line that "It’s an honor just to be nominated."
Within the industry, it’s also chance to lobby each contending picture further down the campaign trail to the Academy Awards, which take place more than a month from now.
All five of the DGA’s nominees are among the nine feature films up for Best Picture.
As per tradition, it was last year’s DGA winner, Ben Affleck for “Argo,” who opened the envelope that contained Cuarón’s name.
But breaking with tradition was the host of the ceremonies, actress Jane Lynch. “It’s the first time they’ve had a non-director host the show,” said Lynch, after being introduced by DGA President Paris Barclay. “And I’m also the first female. You know, it won’t be long before we’re going to want to vote, have equal pay and wear pants out in public.”
Women also played a prominent role in several other big moments, including the Diversity Award that was presented to Shonda Rhimes and producing partner Betsy Beers, in recognition of their commitment to diversity hiring and providing jobs and opportunities to women and minorities in DGA-covered categories.
In her acceptance speech, Rhimes, the creator of “Scandal”, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice,” told an anecdote about a male roommate who did the dishes one day a week while she did them the other six — and he wanted praise for it — lamenting that an award was necessary for what should be standard business practices of hiring diverse people in front of and behind the camera.
“It’s like washing dishes, something all of us should be doing anyway. There shouldn’t be an award for it, and we’re a little pissed off about that, yet one has been given only four times before this,” she said, while underscoring that the Directors Guild is the only guild that gives out such an award. “Different voices make for something original, which is what the public is hungry for.”
Beers and Rhimes are the first women to receive the Diversity Award. Previous honorees, named in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2005, include cable net HBO, Steven Bochco and John Wells.