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Christopher Nolan, director of the film Oppenheimer, poses backstage after winning the DGA Award for Theatrical Feature Film at the 76th DGA Awards, in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Feb. 10.Chris Pizzello/The Associated Press

Christopher Nolan was awarded the top prize at the Directors Guild Awards for Oppenheimer Saturday, solidifying his front-runner status for next month’s Oscars.

Other winners at the untelevised ceremony in Los Angeles included Celine Song, for first time directorial achievement for her romantic drama Past Lives, and Mstyslav Chernov for the documentary 20 Days in Mariupol, a joint project between The Associated Press and PBS Frontline.

The Directors Guild of America also recognizes achievements in scripted and nonscripted television, with the drama series prize going to Peter Hoar for The Last of Us episode Long, Long Time, and the comedy trophy for Christopher Storer for the Fishes episode of The Bear.

The DGA award is a first for Nolan who had been nominated for the same award four times previously, for Memento, The Dark Knight, Inception and Dunkirk. This year, Nolan was up against some formidable competition in Martin Scorsese for Killers of the Flower Moon, Yorgos Lanthimos for Poor Things, Alexander Payne for The Holdovers and Greta Gerwig for Barbie, who some pundits thought might have been capable of an upset win in response to her snub in the same category at the Oscars.

The guild’s voting body consists of over 19,000 members, which is nearly double the entire membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But even with different voter makeups, only eight times in 75 years has the DGA winner not also gone on to take the directing Oscar. The most recent divergence was in 2019, when Sam Mendes won the DGA for 1917 and the Oscar went to Bong Joon-ho for Parasite. Last year, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert won both for Everything Everywhere All At Once.

At the Oscars on March 10, Nolan’s fellow best director nominees include Scorsese, Lanthimos, Jonathan Glazer for The Zone of Interest and Justine Triet for Anatomy of a Fall. Final Oscar voting begins on Feb. 22.

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