“Slumdog Millionaire” Top Dog To Win Oscar Following DGAs

Slumdog top dog Danny boy in IndiaDirector’s Improve ‘Slumdog Millionaires’ Oscar Odds

Danny Boyle shrugs off Indian protests over his movie, after it bests “Frost/Nixon,” “Benjamin Button,” “Milk” and “The Dark Knight” for the prestigious DGA honor which often predicts Academy Awards

By Alex Ben Block

Century City, CA (RushPRnews/Hollywood Today) 02/02/09 – And the final answer at the Director’s Guild of America awards is…”Slumdog Millionaire.”Continuing its surprising domination of the major Hollywood end of year honors, Slumdog’s English born director Danny Boyle was honored for outstanding directorial achievement in feature film on Saturday night at the conclusion of the 61st Annual DGA Awards. Boyle’s win follows numerous critical honors for the story of a street orphan who wins big on the Indian version of the TV game show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” including the Golden Globe as best drama and the Screen Actor’s Guild Award for best ensemble drama, giving Slumdog what appears to be unstoppable momentum as it heads toward the Oscars on Feb. 22, where it has 10 nominations including Best Picture and Best Director.

“Dream kind and dream hard and you’ll get here,” said Boyle, who won after his first time being nominated by the guild that represents directors, assistant directors and production managers. .
The DGA Award has been a harbinger of the Oscars, with the guild’s winning feature director going on to win the Oscar as best director 54 out of 60 times since 1948, often accompanied by the best picture award as well.

Bet a million on this underdog, it is going to the Oscars after winning DGA, Producers Guild, Actors Guild and Golden Globe awards. The guilds reflect too much of the Academy Award voter-ship to be denied.

In winning this year, Slumdog beat out the directors of “Frost/Nixon,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Milk” and “The Dark Knight,” the year’s top grossing movie. Last year the DGA award went to the Coen brothers for “No Country For Old Men,” which went on to win best director, adapted screenplay and best picture at the Academy Awards.

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In the press room after his win, Boyle responded to protesters in India who are unhappy over the way the movie portrays their country, and especially the street children of Mumbai, formally known as Bombay, which has the second largest population of any city in the world. Boyle pointed out that Slumdog had already opened in India with the third highest box office tally of any western film after “Spiderman 3″ and “Quantum of Solace.” “I never thought our film would be included in the same breath as those others,” said Boyle.

Boyle called India “an incredibly passionate place,” and noted his movie is a “western” film, not a home grown “Bollywood” movie. He said “Slumdog” could actually help the development of the film industry in India.

He shrugged off his critics in India saying: “One of the jobs of the filmmaker is sometimes you have to take it on the chin.”

Boyle said it was accurate to describe “Slumdog” as an independent film, even though it was financed by three studios, and distributed in the U.S. by Fox Searchlight, a division of media giant News Corps. “You can sense the independence in a film,” said Boyle, adding: “This film is made in that spirit by most of the people who made it.”
In his acceptance speech and again after the show, Boyle went out of his way to praise Warner Bros. which originally had U.S. rights to the movie, and financed 40 percent of its budget which the director said was 7 million British pounds (about $11.2 million U.S.). The movie had been a project of Warner Independent, which went out of business last year before it could be distributed. At that point Warner considered sending it direct to video but eventually relented and sold U.S. distribution rights to Fox Searchlight, while retaining a half interest in the picture.

Boyle said Warner’s “could have buried it. It did get scary…They did the right thing in the end. These guys did the deal that allows us to be here.”

At the Oscars, all of the nominated directors represent movies that were also nominated for best picture, which is very rare. At the DGA awards, however, the list of nominees was not the same, with a very big difference. The guild nominated Christopher Nolan for “The Dark Knight,” while the fifth Oscar nomination went to “The Reader,” and Nolan was not nominated as best director.

That made the DGA awards a test of whether the Academy had been out of line in its choices. If Nolan had won, it would have made the Oscar winner seem like a second choice. Now instead, Slumdog goes into the writer’s guild awards next weekend and then the Oscars in three weeks as the odds on favorite in both categories.

At the DGA awards, unlike the Oscars, each nominated feature director is given a special medallion in honor of being nominated; and the director is given a chance to speak. In essence, it gave all of the nominated directors a chance to rattle through an acceptance speech in which they had the opportunity to thank everyone who had anything to do with the movie, their career and their family. Since the DGA awards are not televised, directors who exceeded a suggested guideline of three minutes for an acceptance were not reigned in, so some of the speeches went on and on.

Jodi Foster presented the nomination medallion to David Fincher, director of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, with a back handed compliment. “I think there are many of us who know and who have worked with David who would say, ‘That man is insane.’…I’ve never worked for a crazier man or learned as much.”

In a video, actor Brad Pitt said of Fincher, who has directed him in three movies that “He’s been called demanding and infuriating and a great pain in the ass and I love him for it.”

To present the nomination medallion to Ron Howard, the stars of “Frost/Nixon” came out and did a routine in which they redid the same scene again and again as the director watched and laughed. Michael Sheen, who played Frost, and Frank Langella, who portrays Nixon, finished by praising Howard for his vision and steady hand at the tiller.
Howard said he was very proud of “Frost/Nixon” even if it wasn’t his biggest box office hit. Howard says the late star Henry Fonda gave him advice he never forgot: “Every once in a while you’ve got to take a creative risk that scares the hell out of you.”

Christian Bale, who starred in the last two super-successful Batman movies, presented the nomination medallion to Nolan, whom he called “a real shape shifter as a director; something I try to do as an actor.” By shape shifter he apparently meant that Nolan is able to adapt to changing situations.

In a rambling presentation, Bale called Nolan his “guru” who knows everything. However, Nolan in accepting laughed off the idea he knows it all: “I don’t know crap about crap. I just know a little bit about movies.”

Sean Penn presented the nomination medallion to Gus Van Sant, who directed him in “Milk,” earning him an Oscar nomination as best actor. The picture earned eight Oscar nominations in all, including best picture and best director. “The first thing actors ask of a director is trust,” said Penn, “and Gus offers it in tidal waves…He is a genuine visionary of originality.”

The most emotional moments of the evening, surprisingly, was not the presentation of awards to directors, but rather a special award given to critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times, and formerly of several long running syndicated TV shows that provided movie reviews. The presentation of an honorary membership in the DGA was made by director Michael Apted, who is president of the guild. It featured clips from reviews over the years, including one praising an Apted movie and another trashing one of the director’s films.

In addition to Apted, there were taped tributes by such top directors as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood. When it came time for his acceptance, Ebert was accompanied to the stage by his wife Chaz, who spoke on his behalf. Ebert has had thyroid cancer, and is unable to speak, although he is able to communicate through his writing. “It’s very brave,” said Chaz Ebert, reading a statement written by her husband, “of directors to give a critic an honorary membership.”
Ebert compared movies to a great orchestra: “It is the symphony and you are the conductors.”
Ebert received his second standing ovation of the long evening as he left the stage.