By Susan King
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Christopher Nolan, the director of the critical and commercial success, was nominated Thursday for the 61st annual Directors Guild of America award. It's the first time a director of a superhero movie has received such recognition from the DGA.
The guild's nod comes on the heels of the "Batman" epic earning nominations from the Producers Guild of America, the American Society of Cinematographers and the Writers Guild of America, as well as sweeping the People's Choice Awards on Wednesday evening. Nolan was previously nominated by the DGA for 2001's "Memento."
"It's been a good week for us," Nolan said Thursday. "I have always felt that the grand-scale blockbuster is the thing that Hollywood does best, and that was one of the reasons I was excited to take it on. It was really enjoyable to look at the iconography and the concept of who Batman is and who the Joker is and try to immerse yourself in their world."
Joining Nolan in the DGA nominations are Danny Boyle for "Slumdog Millionaire," David Fincher for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Ron Howard for "Frost/Nixon" and Gus Van Sant for "Milk."
"Frost/Nixon" marks the fourth DGA nomination for Howard. He won the award for 1995's "Apollo 13" and 2001's "A Beautiful Mind."
"I'm thrilled," said Howard. "It turns out this never gets old."
Howard recalled that the big difference with this nomination and his first for 1985's "Cocoon" was that back then "I wasn't savvy to realize the day they were being announced," he said, adding that Thursday morning he was waiting to hear if he would be nominated.
Van Sant was previously nominated for 1997's "Good Will Hunting." "I guess it means the other directors in the guild thought it was OK to give me an award," said Van Sant about the nomination. "With the WGA nomination, it's fantastic for the film to have some notoriety." Thursday marked the first DGA nominations for Boyle and Fincher in the feature film category (though Fincher won the DGA Commercial Award in 2003).
"I am honored to be nominated by the Directors Guild of America," Boyle said in a statement. "For 'Slumdog Millionaire' to be recognized like this is a great privilege and I am personally flattered to be among such prestigious company. I'm also grateful to all the cast and crew in Mumbai whose mighty talents and patience I relied on constantly. As we say over here, I'm chuffed to bits."
Notably missing from the list were Sam Mendes for "Revolutionary Road," Stephen Daldry for "The Reader" and Mike Leigh for "Happy-Go-Lucky." Leigh won the New York Film Critics Circle and National Society of Film Critics honors for best director of 2008.
The DGA Award is one of the most dependable bellwethers for the best director Academy Award. The DGA winners have gone on to receive the Oscar for best director 54 out of 60 times, including last year's recipients Joel and Ethan Coen for "No Country for Old Men."
The winner will be announced Jan. 31 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel.
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