With the five nominees unveiled on Thursday, the Directors Guild of America Awards offered a slate that countered both the “all-male” set that Natalie Portman savaged from the podium at the Golden Globes last weekend and the racial homogeneity that sparked two years of #Oscarssowhite.
The group of directors nominated for the feature film award this year included Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water"), Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”) and Martin McDonagh (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”).
Notable in his absence was Steven Spielberg for “The Post.” Spielberg is a DGA favorite; he has won the award three times and picked up 11 nominations — both records.
By including Gerwig and Peele, the Directors Guild set itself apart from the Golden Globes and British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
Gerwig’s inclusion offers something of a balm during a time when women in Hollywood have organized around sexual harassment and gender parity. The Time’s Up initiative, unveiled on New Year’s Day and signed on by 300 prominent Hollywood women, is designed to address gender inequity in the workplace and provide a legal defense fund for women who have suffered sexual harassment or assault, but its first big impact was seen at Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony, where virtually every woman attending wore black. .
A report released this month by USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative, however, is less encouraging -- women made up only 4.3% of all directors of the 1,100 top films released from 2007-17, a ratio of 22 males to each female director.
Additionally, only four black women, three Asian women and one Latina directed any of those 1,100 films over that span of 11 years.
DGA Awards voters have historically been more generous than the Oscars in recognizing women, though the numbers still stop short of double digits.
While directors branch voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have nominated women only four times, Gerwig’s nod marks the ninth time the guild has nominated a woman in the feature film category.
The others: Lina Wertmüller (“Seven Beauties”), Randa Haines (“Children of a Lesser God”), Barbra Streisand (“The Prince of Tides”), Jane Campion (“The Piano”), Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”), Valerie Faris (with Jonathan Dayton, “Little Miss Sunshine”) and Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty”).
“I made this movie for 15-year-old girls to see and they might think, ‘Hey, I could do that too,’” Gerwig told The Times at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Peele, meanwhile, becomes the fourth black director nominated by the DGA for the feature film award, following Lee Daniels (“Precious”), Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and, last year, Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”).
DGA nods are always good news for the movies of the nominated directors going forward at the Oscars. Since the film academy expanded the category in 2009, the only time the best picture category did not include a film by a DGA-nominated director was in 2011, when voters passed over David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."
“I am honored and moved by this nomination,” Del Toro said in a statement. “This is my Guild. In a great year, it’s wonderful to be included among such impressive artists.”
Added McDonagh, also in a statement: “I'm thrilled and honored to be nominated alongside such a brilliant group of film-makers whose films I admire so much.”
The good news for Spielberg, Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”), Dee Rees (“Mudbound”), Paul Thomas Anderson (“Phantom Thread”) and others left off the DGA’s list is that the academy hasn't completely matched the guild’s director picks since 2010. In those eight years, the DGA and Oscars have overlapped in that category 31 out of 40 times. Last year, the academy’s directors branch voters subbed in Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”) over DGA nominee Garth Davis (“Lion”).
The academy’s embrace of Gibson was surprising not just because of the director’s controversial past. Typically, it’s the 16,000-plus DGA voters rewarding the helmers behind big, commercial movies (“The Martian,” “American Sniper,” “Captain Phillips”) while the much smaller academy directors branch (512 active members this year) go for artier dramas (“Room,” “Foxcatcher,” “Nebraska”).
Peele was also nominated for the DGA’s first-time film director award, a category in just its third year. Joining him are Geremy Jasper ("Patti Cakes"), William Oldroyd ("Lady Macbeth"), Taylor Sheridan ("Wind River") and Aaron Sorkin ("Molly's Game").
Sheridan’s 2011 horror movie, “Vile,” did not receive a theatrical release, allowing him to be eligible for the category, a DGA spokesperson said.
Alex Garland won the first-time director honor in 2016 for the indie sci-fi hit “Ex Machina.” Davis won last year for “Lion.”
Winners will be announced at the 70th DGA Awards on Feb. 3 at the Beverly Hilton.