The nominees included Stephen Daldry for The Hours, Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Rob Marshall for Chicago, Roman Polanski for The Pianist and Martin Scorsese for Gangs of New York.
Although none of these directors have previously won a DGA award, Scorsese has been on the list four times before, while Polanski has made it twice before. This makes Jackson's second nod, having made the list last year for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Polanski's other nominations were for Rosemary's Baby (1968) and Chinatown (1974). Scorsese's were for Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990) and Age of Innocence (1993). Along with getting his fifth DGA nomination, Scorsese will also be receiving the union's prestigious lifetime achievement award this year. The last recipient was Steven Spielberg, who won the honors in 2000.
Marshall and Daldry are first-time nominees. Daldry was nominated for an Academy Award for Billy Elliot in 2001 but failed to get a DGA nod that year. Chicago is Marshall's first film as a director. He's previously directed ABC's TV movie Annie.
Some of the other high-profile contenders who didn't make the cut included Pedro Almodovar for Talk to Her, Todd Haynes for Far From Heaven, Spike Jonze for Adaptation and Alexander Payne for About Schmidt.
At the nomination announcement, Variety reports DGA president Martha Coolidge stressed how the winner of the DGA award was "the most accurate" barometer on who will go on to win the Academy Award. In the last 54 years, all but five DGA winners have won the Oscar as well. The most recent DGA winner who didn't go on to win the Academy Award was Ang Lee, who won the DGA award in 2001 for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but then lost the Oscar to Steven Soderbergh for Traffic.
"We all want to win an Oscar but directors will tell you that this award is nearest and dearest to their heart," Coolidge said.
The DGA nominations are selected by the guild members who include feature directors, TV helmers, associate directors, assistant directors, stage managers and unit production managers. At press time, the remaining nominees had yet to be released.
The awards will be handed out Mar. 1 at the 55th Annual DGA Awards Dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.