Martin Scorsese has scored the top feature award from the Directors Guild of America for his work on Warner Bros.' gangster thriller "The Departed."
It was the first victory in seven DGA nominations for Scorsese, who topped Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for "Babel," Bill Condon for "Dreamgirls," Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris for "Little Miss Sunshine" and Stephen Frears for "The Queen."
"I just wanted to make a good film and people would go see it and enjopy the film and God willing I'd get another picture and that's it," Scorsese told the audience of about 1,000 at the Centiury Plaza Hotel. "I did not think I'd be standing here tonight, I'll tell you that."
The award, presented by Steven Spielberg on Saturday night in ceremonies at the Century Plaza Hotel, places Scorsese as a front-runner for the Best Director Oscar. The DGA winner, based on voting by 13,400 Guild members, has matched the Oscar winner in 52 of its 58 awards, including last year when Ang Lee won both for "Brokeback Mountain."
In his acceptance speech, Scorsese paid tribute to genre film directors such as Don Seigel, Samuel Fuller, Anthony Mann and Robert Aldrich. And he noted that the grosses were especially strong in such organized crime centers as Las Vegas and Boca Raton, Fla.
Scorsese now faces Frears and Inarritu for the Oscar along with Clint Eastwood for "Letters From Iwo Jima" and Paul Greengrass for "United 93."
It's his sixth Oscar directing nomination along with "Raging Bull," "The Last Temptation of Christ," "Good Fellas" "Gangs of New York" and "The Aviator."
"The Departed" has taken in the highest gross among the nominated films with $127 million domestically and nearly $270 million worldwide. Scorsese won the Golden Globe for Best director three weeks ago; since then, "Little Miss Sunshine" won both the top feature film awards from the PGA and SAG.
Scorsese's previous DGA nominations were for "The Aviator," "Gangs of New York," "The Age of Innocence," "Goodfellas," "Raging Bull" and "Taxi Driver." He won the DGA's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.
Richard Shepard won the DGA trophy for comedy series for ABC's pilot of "Ugly Betty" and Jon Cassar won the drama series award for Fox's "24." Rob Marshall took the musical variety award for NBC's "Tony Bennett: An American Classic" and Walter Hill won for TV movies for AMC's "Broken Trail."
Marshall won the DGA feature award four years ago for "Chicago" while Hill won the drama award two years ago for the "Deadwood pilot."
Lithuianian filmmakter Arunas Matelis won for feature documentary award for "Before Flying Back to the Earth," centered on children hospitalized with leukemia, topping Oscar nominees, "Deliver Us From Evil" and "Iraq in Fragments."