Guillermo del Toro was hailed for outstanding directorial achievement in feature film by the Directors Guild of America at its 70th annual DGA Awards, which took place Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, for his work on The Shape of Water, his romantic fantasy, which, having also earned the Producers Guild of America’s top prize last month, consolidated its status as an Oscar frontrunner.
The DGA Award for film directing is considered an important Oscar precursor, since, on all but seven occasions since its inception, the award’s recipient also has gone on to win the Oscar as best director.
In accepting the award, del Toro, acknowledging that his film about a mute woman who falls in love with a mysterious sea creature doesn’t fit the usual awards-season mold, thanked his fellow directors for “allowing us as a genre to come into the conversation,” and, given that his movie tells of a group of society’s outsiders who band together, he made a plea for inclusion of more and different voices on screen, saying, “we are not hearing all the stories that need to be heard.”
Jordan Peele’s Get Out, another genre movie, one that uses horror movie tropes to explore racial fears, was also recognized by the DGA, which presented Peele with its award for outstanding first-time feature film directing. Admitting that while he has enjoyed great success this year, “this is not a good year for this country,” he testified, “I truly believe these stories that we make and these things we put out into the world, these stories of our love and passion, are the greatest weapons against the hate and the bigotry.”
Glenn Weiss, a veteran director of live events, won his eighth DGA Award as, in the category of variety/talk/news/sports – specials, he was lauded for his quick handling of the chaos that erupted at the 89th Academy Awards when the wrong winner of that night’s best picture award was announced.
“Something happened we didn’t plan,” he deadpanned as he accepted his trophy. He explained that when he realized there’d been a massive error, a director’s natural instinct would have been to order his cameras “to come out, go wide and cover up.” Instead, he said, “we had to be transparent,” and so he instructed the cameras to zoom in on a shot of the envelope’s card containing the word of the actual winner, Moonlight. “I was obsessed with getting a shot of that card,” he said.
The documentary award went to Matthew Heineman for City of Ghosts, which chronicles the courageous citizen-journalists who secreted out word about life in Raqqa, Syria when it was under ISIS rule.
In the television categories, top honors were handed out to cinematographer-turned-director Reed Morano in the dramatic series category for the “Offred” episode of The Handmaid’s Tale; to Beth McCarthy-Miller, in the comedy series category, for the “Chicklet” episode of Veep; and to Jean-Marc Valle, in the mini-series category, for the awards season juggernaut Big Little Lies.
Current DGA president Thomas Schlamme and former national executive director Jay Roth paid tribute to both the career and guild activism of Michael Apted, a three-term PGA president, who was presented with the DGA Honorary Life Member Award in recognition of leadership in the industry, contribution to the guild and the profession of directing, and outstanding career achievement. In addition, Dwight Williams received the Frank Capra Achievement Award and Jim Tanker received the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award, both in recognition of career achievement in the industry and service to the guild.
The evening was hosted by writer, director and producer Judd Apatow, who joked that when the guild went searching for a host, “They wanted someone who would not get in trouble before the event,” and so they asked, “Who’s the least sexy guy?” He got off a few shots against the disgraced Harvey Weinstein — “He seemed to really ruin robes!” — and others accused of being sexual predators. But he reserved most of his comic bits for a series of filmed Skype interviews with his fellow directors like J.J. Abrams and Martin Scorsese, in which, playing the dumb guy, he quizzed them about the basics of film directing with questions like “What’s an f-stop?” as, playing along, they collectively rolled their eyes.
A full list of winners follows.