Oliver Stone moved a step closer to a second directing Oscar Saturday night when his peers in the Directors Guild of America awarded him its top honor for "Born on the Fourth of July." Stone won the DGA award in 1987 en route to Oscars for writing and directing "Platoon."
Stone, speaking softly and slowly as he blinked at the flash of cameras, thanked his crew but failed to mention Ron Kovic, the disabled Vietnam veteran upon whose autobiography "Born on the Fourth of July" is based and with whom he shares an Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay.
"It feels so good," Stone said of the award after leaving the podium at the Beverly Hilton. "But it's gone so quickly."
Stone, a decorated Vietnam veteran himself, had been trying to turn Kovic's story into a movie since the late 1970s.
The award to Stone improves the odds of subsequent Oscars both for himself and for "Born" as best picture. Only three times since the DGA began presenting awards in 1949 has the guild's winner failed to also take home an Academy Award.
Steven Spielberg won the DGA award for "The Color Purple" in 1986, even though he had not been nominated for an Oscar. Sydney Pollack got the director's Oscar that year for "Out of Africa." Anthony Harvey won the guild award in 1968 for "The Lion in Winter," but saw the Oscar go to Carol Reed for "Oliver." In 1972, Francis Ford Coppola was the DGA winner for "The Godfather" while Bob Fosse was the Academy's choice as best director for "Cabaret."
Stone won over a field of nominees this year that included Peter Weir ("Dead Poets Society"), Woody Allen ("Crimes and Misdemeanors"), Rob Reiner ("When Harry Met Sally . . . ") and Phil Alden Robinson ("Field of Dreams"). Only Stone, Allen and Weir were nominated for both DGA and Academy awards. The other Oscar nominees are Jim Sheridan ("My Left Foot") and Kenneth Branagh ("Henry V").
Bruce Beresford, who directed "Driving Miss Daisy," was overlooked by both groups, even though his film--with nine Oscar nominations--is considered "Born on the Fourth of July's" strongest rival for the best picture Oscar. The final ballots for Academy Awards went out Thursday; the Oscars will be presented March 26.
Eight other DGA awards were presented Saturday for work in television. Among the winners were Eric Laneuville, for the "I'm in the Nude" episode of the nighttime dramatic series "L.A. Law"; Dan Curtis, for the mini-series "War and Remembrance"; Barnet Kellman, for the "Brown Like Me" episode of the comedy series "Murphy Brown"; and Victoria Hochberg for the daytime PBS special "Jacob Have I Loved."
Because of the perceived importance to the Oscar race, the announcement of the DGA's best feature film director award is always the evening's main event, and the recipient of that award is its big winner. Stone, however, maintained cautious enthusiasm.
"Success and failure are both imposters--somebody else said that and it's true," the director said after the ceremony. "It feels good now but in a couple of days you're just a story in last week's paper."
The 1989 DGA winners:
Motion Pictures: Oliver Stone, "Born on the Fourth of July."
Comedy Series: Barnet Kellman, "Brown Like Me," "Murphy Brown," CBS.
Dramatic Series-Nighttime: Eric Laneuville, "I'm in the Nude," "L.A. Law," NBC.
Dramatic Series-Daytime: Victoria Hochberg, "Jacob Have I Loved," "Wonderworks," PBS.
Musical/Variety: Don Mischer, "Gregory Hines: Tap Dance in America," "Great Performances," PBS.
Dramatic Specials: Dan Curtis, "War & Remembrance," ABC.
Documentary/Actuality: Peter Rosen, "The Eighth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition."
Sports: Bob Fishman, 1989 U.S. Open Tennis, CBS Sports.
Commercials: David Cornell, "Small Town," AT&T.;
Honorary Life Memberships: Sid Sheinberg, president and chief operating officer of MCA-Universal; Barry Diller, chairman and chief executive officer of 20th Century Fox; Elliot Silverstein, film director.
D.W. Griffith lifetime achievement award: Ingmar Bergman.