For the second year in a row, Alejandro G. Iñárritu won the Directors Guild of America's feature film award Saturday, giving his survival drama "The Revenant" a boost in the ever-shifting best picture race.
"I never expected to win this award, truly," Iñárritu said, after earning the first back-to-back win in DGA history. "I'm ... paralyzed. Tough men don't cry; that's what Ridley Scott said today."
Also nominated were Tom McCarthy, for the investigative journalism movie "Spotlight," Adam McKay, for the financial drama "The Big Short," George Miller, for the post-apocalyptic fantasy "Mad Max: Fury Road" and Scott, for the science-fiction epic "The Martian."
Backstage after his win, Iñárritu tackled the topic that has dominated this awards season: diversity.
"It's a cultural problem," Iñárritu said of the discussion around the industry's failure to acknowledge people of color during awards season. "It's not a problem of the academy. It's a problem of a cultural perception we have to change."
The whole night was infused with discussion of the topic. In his introductory remarks to the show, held in a ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, DGA President Paris Barclay said the DGA's most important fight is "the hard fight to convince the industry that equal opportunity means just that ... a level playing field."
He also told the crowd, composed of nominees and DGA members, that no date had been set for the guild's contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
Diversity emerged in other moments during the show, including when "The Birth of a Nation" director Nate Parker introduced a film about what the DGA will look like in 20 years and when presenters and winners pointed out how their films highlighted people normally absent from the screen.
Matthew Heineman, who won the documentary filmmaking award for his movie about the Mexican drug war, "Cartel Land," said he hoped the film would "give voice to those trapped in the cycle of violence."
While introducing McCarthy, whose film "Spotlight" is about the Boston Globe's coverage of the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis, Rachel McAdams said, "In a season that's inspired a lot of good conversation about who's on screen and who's not … I'm proud to be part of a film giving voice to the voiceless."
"The Big Short" director McKay noted that his film about the financial crisis will screen for Congress on Wednesday.
"We wanted to make the economy and banking something everyone can be talking about rather than feeling cowed or stupid or, worst of all, let's just trust the experts; that never works well," McKay said.
English director Alex Garland won the DGA's medallion for first-time feature film for his science-fiction thriller, "Ex Machina."
The other nominees for the guild's new prize, which was inaugurated to acknowledge filmmakers on the early side of their careers, were Fernando Coimbra ("A Wolf at the Door"), Joel Edgerton ("The Gift"), Marielle Heller ("The Diary of a Teenage Girl") and László Nemes ("Son of Saul").
In the field of television, David Nutter of HBO's "Game of Thrones" won the award for dramatic series; Chris Addison of HBO's "Veep" won for comedy series directing; Dee Rees won for TV movie for HBO's "Bessie;" Kenny Ortega of the Disney Channel movie "Descendants" won the children's programming prize; and Adam Vetri won for reality programming for CMT's "Steve Austin's Broken Skull Challenge."
Don Roy King of NBC's "Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special" won for variety/talk/news/sports-specials and Dave Diomedi of NBC's "The Tonight Show" won for variety/talk/news/sports-regularly scheduled programming.
Thomas McDermott, stage manager of CBS' "The Young and the Restless," won the Franklin J. Schaffner award for service to the DGA; and Mary Ray Thewlis, a producer of "The Americans" and longtime assistant director and production manager of various "Law & Order" series, received the Frank Capra Achievement Award for service to the guild.
In the world of commercials, Andreas Nilsson won for spots he directed for Comcast, General Electric and Old Spice, and veteran commercial director Joe Pytka won the DGA's Lifetime Achievement Award.
Host Jane Lynch set a light tone for the show, opening with a loud introduction from the USC marching band.
In remarks about the nominees for the night's big prize — feature film — she noted that "The Martian" director Scott had been nominated four previous times.
"Mr. Scott, when you get your fifth one, it comes with a gift card to Chipotle," Lynch said.
By the time the four-hour awards show entered its third hour, the atmosphere got punchy.
Noting that none of the nominees was there to accept the category he was presenting, James Corden said with a shrug, "My agent said it would be good to be in the room."
Times staff writer Amy Kaufman contributed to this report.