Ben Affleck has won the top film honour from the Directors Guild of America for his CIA thriller Argo, further sealing its status as frontrunner to take best picture at the Academy Awards.
The prize, awarded on Saturday, would normally make Affleck a near shoo-in to win best director at the Oscars on 24 February, since the DGA recipient almost always goes on to claim the same prize at Hollywood's biggest night.
But Affleck surprisingly missed out on an Oscar directing nomination, along with several other key favourites including fellow Directors Guild contenders Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty and Tom Hooper for Les Miserables.
Affleck's Oscar snub has not hurt Argo and may even have earned it some favour among awards voters as an underdog favourite. Argo has dominated other awards since the Oscar nominations.
"I don't think that this makes me a real director, but I think it means I'm on my way," said Affleck, who won for only his third film behind the camera.
Backstage at the Directors Guild awards, Affleck said he had nothing but respect for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, and that "you're not entitled to anything".
With 12 Oscar nominations, Steven Spielberg's civil war saga Lincoln initially looked like the Academy favourite over other potential favourites such as Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty, since films generally have little chance of winning best picture if they are not nominated for best director. Only three films have done it in 84 years, most recently 1989's best picture winner Driving Miss Daisy, which failed to earn a directing nomination for Bruce Beresford.
But Affleck's Argo, in which he also stars as a CIA operative who hatches a bold plan to rescue six Americans during the hostage crisis in Iran, has swept up all the major awards since the Oscar nominations. Argo won best drama and director at the Golden Globes and top film honours from the Screen Actors Guild and the Producers Guild of America.
Many of the same film professionals who vote in guild awards also cast ballots for the Oscars, so all the wins for Argo are a strong sign that the film has the inside track for best picture.
Milos Forman, a two-time DGA and Oscar winner for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus, received the group's lifetime achievement award. The Guild president, Taylor Hackford, led the assembled crowd in a toast to Forman, who was ill and unable to attend.
Malik Bendjelloul won the guild's documentary award for Searching for Sugar Man, his study of the fate of critically acclaimed but obscure 1970s singer-songwriter Rodriquez. The film is also nominated for best documentary at the Oscars.
Jay Roach won the guild trophy for TV movies and miniseries for Game Change, his drama starring Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin in her 2008 vice-presidential run.
Roach said he watched John McCain rush to choose Palin as his running mate, potentially putting her second in line for the presidency.
"I said, 'We gotta talk about this,'" Roach joked.
Girls star Lena Dunham earned the guild honour for TV comedy, while Rian Johnson won for drama series for Breaking Bad.
"It is such an unbelievable honour to be in the company of the people in this room, who have made me want to do this with my life," Dunham said.
This news story source is from Guardian
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