"This time of year there's no place to hide," said an elated Kevin Costner, minutes after he had won the Directors Guild of America award on Saturday night for best director of 1990.
In a sense, Costner, the director of the American frontier epic "Dances With Wolves," was acknowledging that this week he's the most visible man in Hollywood as the industry counts down the days until next Monday's Oscar ceremonies.
Winning the best director prize from his peers in the guild, on top of Golden Globe awards from the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. for best dramatic picture and best director in January, makes "Wolves" the odds-on favorite in the Oscars. It is nominated in 12 categories, the most any picture has received since "Reds" in 1981. Costner himself has three nominations--for director, as co-producer and for best actor.
Only three times since the Directors Guild began presenting awards in 1949 has the winner failed to also take home the Oscar for best director. The most recent was Steven Spielberg, who won for 1985's "The Color Purple" but wasn't nominated for an Oscar. And more often than not, it follows that the voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences give the Oscar for best picture to their best director winner.
Costner clutched an unlit, fat cigar in one hand, carried his golden plaque in the other and was wearing his self-described "lucky tux" as he addressed the audience of film and television directors at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
The 36-year-old first-time director said that he "is very flattered. It means a great deal to me (especially) considering the men who were nominated in this particular category." Costner won over veteran directors Francis Ford Coppola for "The Godfather Part III," Barry Levinson for "Avalon," Martin Scorsese for "GoodFellas" and Guiseppe Tornatore for "Cinema Paradiso."
Costner thanked a number of people who participated in the production of "Wolves," including Michael Ovitz and Sandy Climan of Creative Artists Agency. Drawing laughter from the audience, he said candidly: "They moved my salary up to the point where we could put it back in the movie when we got in trouble"--a reference to widely reported cost overruns and production difficulties during the production of "Wolves."
Costner was urged to make predictions about the Oscars when he faced a herd of reporters after the ceremonies, but he danced around the suggestions. "I guess you're looking at it from history," he remarked when the Directors Guild-Oscar relationship was mentioned.
"Do you feel vindicated by this award?" asked another reporter, referring to the unusual length and subject matter of "Wolves."
"I never was on trial," Costner replied.
Earlier in the ceremonies, Howard W. Koch, producer of "Ghost," another Oscar-nominated best picture, was presented the guild's Frank Capra Achievement Award.
Eight other prizes were handed out for television and commercial work at the guild's 43rd annual awards program, which was also conducted in New York City.
The NBC comedy television series "Cheers" continued to pile awards on top of its Emmy and Golden Globe wins, as James Burrows won an award for directing the "Woody Interruptus" episode. NBC's "Quantum Leap" dramatic series was honored as director Michael Zinberg picked up the prize for directing the "Vietnam" episode.
In still another NBC win, Roger Young was honored for directing "Murder in Mississippi," in the dramatic specials category.
The list of winners:
Feature film: Kevin Costner, "Dances With Wolves."
Comedy series: James Burrows, "Cheers," NBC.
Dramatic series, night: Michael Zinberg, "Quantum Leap," NBC.
Dramatic series, daytime: Lynn Hamrick, "Testing Dirty" (Afterschool Special) ABC.
Musical/variety show: Jeff Margolis, "62nd Annual Academy Awards," ABC.
Documentary/actuality: Elena Mannes, "Amazing Grace," PBS.
Sports: Robert Fishman, "American League Championship Series--Game 4," CBS.
Dramatic Specials: Roger Young, "Murder in Mississippi," NBC.
Commercials: Peter Smillie.
Howard W. Koch, the Frank Capra Achievement Award.
Larry Auerbach and Milt Felsen, the Robert B. Aldrich Service Award.
Chester O'Brien and Mortimer O'Brien, the Franklin Schaffner Lifetime Achievement Award.
Gilbert Cates, an Honorary Life Membership Award.