Monday, March 3, 2003

Rookie director wins top award

Guild honors work on 'Chicago' film

By Anthony Breznican
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - In what could be a preview of the Oscars, freshman moviemaker Rob Marshall razzle-dazzled the Directors Guild of America with his musical Chicago late Saturday night, claiming the group's top honor and defeating veteran directors Martin Scorsese and Roman Polanski.

In the 55 years since the guild began presenting its top honor, the winner has gone on to receive the Academy Award for best director all but five times.

Marshall, 42, a Tony-winning Broadway director and choreographer, appeared as shaken as he was grateful after claiming the award. "This is something I didn't quite expect," he said backstage

After directing the TV children's movies Cinderella and Annie, he broke through into feature films with an approach to the jazz musical Chicago that blended a vaudeville-style fantasy world with the story about star-struck female prisoners trying to beat murder raps and gain fame.

The film leads this year's Oscar contenders with 13 nominations, including best picture. The Oscars are set for March 23.

Although his work on Gangs of New York lost to Marshall, Scorsese came away with a lifetime achievement honor for a career spanning three decades.

Scorsese, 60, has never won the guild prize, although he was previously nominated for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, GoodFellas and The Age of Innocence.

Polanski's nomination for The Pianist was his first by the guild since he pleaded guilty in 1977 to having sex with a 13-year-old girl, then fled the United States before his sentencing.

In a rare public appearance, Polanski told Hollywood directors via satellite from Paris on Saturday that his Holocaust drama was a way to show how the pursuit of art can overcome life's horrors.

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