DGA Awards: Christopher Nolan Takes Top Honor for ‘Oppenheimer’

Christopher Nolan took home the top prize at the Directors Guild of America Awards on Saturday night, earning his first DGA Award for the historical epic Oppenheimer.

Past Lives director Celine Song won the Michael Apted Award for first feature. Accepting the award, Song promised to “continue to keep directing films for as long as I can — I promise to keep going.” Mstyslav Chernov won for his Oscar-nominated documentary 20 Days in Mariupol. 

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In the TV categories, The Last of Us’ Peter Hoar won for directing the acclaimed third episode of the HBO drama, “Long, Long Time,” The Bear creator Christopher Storer won for directing the Hulu comedy series and Lessons in Chemistry’s Sarah Adina Smith won for directing the Apple limited series.

DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter opened the 2024 DGA Awards ceremony on Saturday with an acknowledgment of last year’s historic double strike. “I struggle to find words to address the pain everyone faced in our industry in our collective fight to get what we all deserve,” said Glatter, who noted how great it was to be back on set. “We are thankful that we are back doing the work that we love with exceptional new creative and economic protections for DGA members and so many others. Our sister guilds, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, had difficult fights and achieved strong deals on behalf of their members.”

Glatter also looked ahead at the upcoming negotiations between IATSE and the AMPTP. “Now it is time to support IATSE and the Teamsters in their upcoming battle,” she said. “We won’t be satisfied until we all have fair contracts that reward all of us for our work, creating a vibrant, sustainable industry that fairly values everyone’s contributions.”

Host Judd Apatow also referenced last year’s strike — and the DGA avoiding its own work stoppage. “My agent said that I should hold out for more money, but in the spirit of the DGA I accepted their first offer,” said Apatow, who marked his fifth time emceeing the ceremony. “Ultimately, what did we learn from the strikes? We learned that Fran Drescher is the voice of reason, and unfortunately, that’s what reason sounds like. And two, audiences love watching old shows that have been on a lot of seasons. They don’t care at all if they’re new.”

Throughout the evening, the five directors nominated for the top prize were also awarded medallions following presentations of their nominated features.

“I’ve had the honor of presenting Greta with a few awards now, but I know this one is most meaningful of them all to her,” said Barbie star Ryan Gosling of Greta Gerwig. The Barbie director — who was infamously snubbed by the Academy for the Oscar for best director last month — tearfully accepted the honor while saying she was “in the company of my heroes … Every single person who is nominated tonight has made films that are a part of the reason I wanted to make anything at all.”

During Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo’s presentation of Poor Things, Ruffalo recalled a day on set in which co-star Willem Dafoe brought Oscar Isaac to the shoot and joked that the actor was replacing Ruffalo. After Ruffalo thanked director Yorgot Lanthimos for not firing him to make room for Isaac, the director took the stage and gave a shout out to fellow nominee Martin Scorsese. “You’re a giant,” Lanthimos said, who noted he was a child when some of Scorsese’s biggest films were released. “Being here in front of you now, twice your size — only physically, [I have] still a long way to go creatively,” joked Lanthimos, “I just can’t help but think how it feels like a crazy fever dream to me.”

Former DGA president and two-time DGA Award nominee Taylor Hackford honored The Holdovers’ Alexander Payne. “Today’s my birthday and there’s no place I’d rather be than right here, right now,” said Payne. “To be here tonight, with where we are in human history, and to receive recognition, we are all very, very, very lucky.”

Cillian Murphy honored frequent collaborator Christopher Nolan, whose Oppenheimer marked their sixth film together. “It’s the same each time: The scripts are always truly extraordinary, the worlds are always challenging and distinctive, they are intelligent and consequential and, always, they are events,” said Murphy. Nolan called the DGA recognition particularly special because “nobody gets up here on their own.” Nolan thanked his cast, crew and wife Emma Thomas, whom he described as the “lead producer on all these films and lead parent of four kids.”

Jonah Hill, who earned a supporting actor Oscar nom for The Wolf of Wall Street, honored Martin Scorsese and described working with the Killers of the Flower Moon director as “the single greatest highlight of my creative life.” Scorsese shouted out daughter and Francesa in his speech — “she’s responsible for those TikToks” — and thanked the DGA for 13 career nominations. (He has one once in 2007 for The Departed.)

The Directors Guild also honored David Nutter with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Television, Janet G. Knutsen with the Frank Capra Achievement Award and Gary Natoli with the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award.

A complete list of winners for the 76th annual DGA Awards follows.

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Theatrical Feature Film

Greta Gerwig, Barbie
Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things
Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer (WINNER)
Alexander Payne, The Holdovers
Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon

Michael Apted Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in First-Time Theatrical Feature Film

Cord Jefferson, American Fiction
Manuela Martelli, Chile ’76
Noora Niasari, Shayda
A.V. Rockwell, A Thousand and One
Celine Song, Past Lives (WINNER)

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series

Peter Hoar, The Last of Us, “Long, Long Time” (WINNER)
Becky Martin, Succession, “Rehearsal”
Mark Mylod, Succession, “Connor’s Wedding”
Andrij Parekh, Succession, “America Decides”
Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, Succession, “Tailgate Party”

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series

Erica Dunton, Ted Lasso, “La Locker Room Aux Folles”
Bill Hader, Barry, “wow”
Declan Lowney, Ted Lasso, “So Long, Farewell”
Christopher Storer, The Bear, “Fishes” (WINNER)
Ramy Youssef, The Bear, “Honeydew”

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Limited Series

Shawn Levy, All the Light We Cannot See
Tara Miele, Lessons in Chemistry, “Introduction to Chemistry”
Millicent Shelton, Lessons in Chemistry, “Poirot”
Sarah Adina Smith, Lessons in Chemistry, “Her and Him” (WINNER)
Nzingha Stewart, Daisy Jones & The Six, “Track 10: Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Regularly Scheduled Programming

Paul G. Casey, Real Time with Bill Maher, “Episode 2117”
Jim Hoskinson, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “Jan. 19, 2023: Rep. Adam Kinzinger; Meet Me at the Altar; Special appearance by Harvey Guillén”
Michael Mancini and Liz Patrick, Saturday Night Live, “Pedro Pascal / Coldplay” (WINNER)
David Paul Meyer, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, “Singer Charley Crockett Performs “Name on a Billboard” and Discusses New Album with Jordan Klepper“
Paul Pennolino, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, “Episode 1018: Dollar Stores

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Specials

Joel Gallen, Chris Rock: Selective Outrage
Stan Lathan, Dave Chappelle: The Dreamer
Linda Mendoza, Wanda Sykes: I’m an Entertainer
Paul Miller, Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love (WINNER)
Glenn Weiss, The 95th Annual Academy Awards

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Reality Programs

Niharika Desai, Rainn Wilson and the Geography of Bliss, “Happiness is a Bottle of Cod Liver Oil” (WINNER)
Ken Fuchs, The Golden Bachelor, “Premiere”
Joseph Guidry and Alexandra Lipsitz, Project Greenlight: A New Generation, “PGL vs. Gray Matter Problem”
Rich Kim, Lego Masters, “Is It Brick?”
Patrick McManus, American Ninja Warrior, “Season 15 Finale”

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children’s Programs

James Bobin, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, “I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher”
Destin Daniel Cretton, American Born Chinese, “What Guy Are You”
Rob Letterman, Goosebumps, “Say Cheese and Die”
Amy Schatz, Stand Up & Shout: Songs From a Philly High School (WINNER)
Dinh Thai, American Born Chinese, “A Monkey on a Quest”

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials

Martin de Thurah (Epoch Films)
Fair Exchange, Levi’s 501 Jeans – Droga5
Legends Never Die, Levi’s 501 Jeans, Droga5

Seb Edwards (Park Pictures)
Rumble, Battle of the Baddest – Droga5

Kim Gehrig (Somesuch) (WINNER)
Run This Town, Apple Music – Apple (Client Direct)
The Travelers, Expedia – Wieden & Kennedy

Craig Gillespie (MJZ)
Waiting Room, Apple iPhone – TBWA/Media Arts Lab

Andreas Nilsson (Biscuit Filmworks)
R.I.P. Leon, Apple iPhone – Apple (Client Direct)
Action Mode, Apple iPhone14 – Apple (Client Direct)
Choose Happy, Les Mills Fitness – Nice&Frank, San Francisco
Wait’ll You See This, Snapchat – Snapchat (Client Direct)

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary

Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp, Bobi Wine: The People’s President
Mstyslav Chernov, 20 Days in Mariupol (WINNER)
Madeleine Gavin, Beyond Utopia
Davis Guggenheim, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie
D. Smith, Kokomo City

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