The eclectic British director of Irish Catholic descent receives his first Academy Award nomination in the directing category for his sleeper indie hit about a poverty-stricken teenager in Mumbai who goes on a game show. Boyle, 52, won the Golden Globe, British Independent Film and Critics' Choice awards for best director for "Slumdog" and is also nominated for awards from the Directors Guild of America and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
STEPHEN DALDRY "The Reader"
The British director, 47, who works in theater and film, garners his third nomination as best director for the erotically charged drama about the illicit romance between a German teenager and a former Nazi prison guard. Daldry was nominated for an Academy Award for best director for 2000's "Billy Elliot" and 2002's "The Hours." He was a Golden Globe nominee for "The Reader" and is in contention for a BAFTA award.
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DAVID FINCHER "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Fincher, who has built a reputation for darkly stylish sci-fi films and thrillers such as "Fight Club," "Se7en" and "Zodiac," earns his first directing Oscar nomination for "Button," adapted from a 1921 F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. The 46-year-old filmmaker, who began his career 25 years ago directing Rick Springfield music videos, was named best director by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, received Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Award nominations and is in contention for the DGA and BAFTA awards.
RON HOWARD "Frost/Nixon"
The former child star of "The Andy Griffith Show" and Oscar best-film nominees "The Music Man" and "American Graffiti" gets his second Academy Award nomination in this category for the historical drama about David Frost's interviews with former President Richard Nixon. Howard, 54, received the directing Oscar for 2001's "A Beautiful Mind," which also won best picture. Howard was nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Award for "Frost/Nixon" and is vying for the DGA Award, as well as a BAFTA.
GUS VAN SANT "Milk"
The cutting-edge indie filmmaker, 56, receives his second directing Oscar nomination for his poignant biographical drama about San Francisco's slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk. He was previously a best director nominee for his mainstream breakthrough, 1997's "Good Will Hunting." Though mostly overlooked this award season for his direction of "Milk," he was named best director by the Boston Society of Film Critics and is nominated for a DGA award.