Ben Affleck Accepts the DGA Award

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UPDATED: Lena Dunham is lauded for “Girls”; Rian Johnson of “Breaking Bad‘ and Jay Roach of “Game Change” are also honored.

The 65th annual Directors Guild of America Awards ceremony saw Ben Affleck continue his streak of taking home prizes for Argo. The 40-year-old actor turned director won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Films at the awards dinner, which was held Saturday night at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

“I don’t think this makes ma a real director, but I think it means I’m on my way,” he said as he accepted the honor.

In the process, a new awards season statistic was created. The DGA Award usually points the way to the best director Oscar winner, since on only six occasions since the DGA Awards began in 1948 has the DGA winner failed to become the Academy’s best director winner. But that number now goes to seven, since Affleck isn’t nominated for a directing Oscar.

Argo is nominated for seven Academy Awards, though, and now becomes the odds-on favorite since in recent weeks its won two Globes, two Critics Choice Awards, the PGA Award and the SAG ensemble award.

In addition to Affleck, this year’s nominees for film wereKathryn Bigelow, nominated for Zero Dark ThirtyTom HooperLes MiserablesAng LeeLife of Pi; and Steven SpielbergLincoln.

As is the tradition at the DGA Awards, each of the feature film nominees were invited on stage during the course of the evening to accept a medallion.

Introducing Affleck, Bryan Cranston said his Argo director has earned right to be considered “one of our industry’s best.” And Affleck responded, “I look out and see all these great directors. I feel I should be auditioning.” Lee told his fellow directors that the recognition meant more to him than even his Oscar because “you know how hard it is to make movies.” Bigelow, who has come under attack in some quarter’s for her fiilm’s depictions of torture, used her time to underscore the importance of artistic freedom, saying, “None of us here could do what we do without having the freedom of artistic expression.”

Hooper was introduced by Les Mis stars Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman, who playfully testified to the director’s demands, with Jackman calling the director “batshit crazy.” Hooper, in turn, spoke of the lengths the two actors went to to become their characters — saying it too was a form of craziness — and then invited his entire directing team, who flew in from London, onstage to share the honor of the nomination.

Martin Short, invited to introduce Spielberg, provided some of the best jokes of the evening. “It’s more than a thrill, it’s an obligation,” he said of his participation, adding, “obviously Bill Clinton was booked.” He went on to proclaim, “Tonight we honor Steven Spielberg for his magnificent movie,Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer!” But Spielberg gave as good as he got, beginning his remarks by saying, “When you tell your assistant to contact Marty, you just assume she understands you’re talking about Scorsese.”

The award for outstanding documentary work went to Malik Bendjelloul for Searching for Sugar Man, the doc about musician Sixto Rodriguez, which also is looking like an Oscar front-runner in its category following its Critics Choice and PGA wins.

On the television front, Lena Dunham took home the first award of the night, for the pilot of her HBO comedy, Girls. In her acceptance speech, the 26-year-old said for to consider her fellow nominees her peers was “surreal.”

Jay Roach claimed the award for best MOV/Mini-series for his Sarah Palin-focused HBO film Game Change and noted that it has been “a year in which political films got made and got a lot of attention.”

Rian Johnson, who was honored in the dramatic series category for an episode of AMC’s Breaking Bad, said he was “lucky and privileged to ride on the bus for a couple of stops.”

The evening’s penultimate moments were given over to a video tribute to director Milos Forman, recipient of the guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Actors like Annette Bening and Danny DeVito appeared in the piece, which recounted the Czech-born director’s remarkable career with clips from such movies as The Fireman’s Ball, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus and The People vs. Larry Flynt, which underscored the importance that Forman — who fled Communism in his native country to establish a second career in America — placed on freedom.

Because of illness, Forman, who lives in Connecticut, was not able to attend. But DGA president Taylor Hackford read a letter from Forman, in which he thanked the DGA twice. First, for the current award. And then for the directors like Mike NicholsSidney LumetFranklin Schaffner and Buck Henry who stood up for him in the ’70s when he was in danger of being deported by the United States. Taylor then led the room in a glasses-lifted-on-high toast to Forman.

Among the evening’s other honors: Former DGA president Michael Apted was presented with the Robert B. Aldrich Award for his service to the guild. Longtime CBS News director Eric Shapiro was given the Lifetime Achievement Award in News Direction. Susan Zwerman was recognized with the Frank Capra Achievement Award. And Dency Nelson received the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award.

The event, hosted by Kelsey Grammer for the second consecutive year, was live-tweeted by The Hollywood Reporter’s Gregg Kilday. (View his live-blog here.)

Grammer began the show by joking that waiting to hear who won must be “torture” for Bigelow. Riffing on 2012’s films, he said “In Django we learned that the D was silent but the N was not.”

The complete list of nominees are here

by Aaron Couch, Gregg Kilday for