1 Oscar Directors: Background, Social Class, Family, Education, Training (Winners and Nominees, A to Z)

Research in Progress (Feb 5, 2022)

Occupational Inheritance


Social Class


Formal Education




Abrahamson, Lenny:

Allen, Woody

Almodovar, Pedro (Spanish, for Spanish film)

Altman, Robert:

Altman was born on February 20, 1925, in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of Helen (née Matthews), a Mayflower descendant from Nebraska, and Bernard Clement Altman, a wealthy insurance salesman and amateur gambler, who came from an upper-class family. Altman’s ancestry was German, English and Irish; his paternal grandfather, Frank Altman, Sr., anglicized the spelling of the family name from “Altmann” to “Altman”. Altman had a Catholic upbringing,[4] but he did not continue to follow or practice the religion as an adult, although he has been referred to as “a sort of Catholic” and a Catholic director.

He was educated at Jesuit schools, including Rockhurst High School, in Kansas City. He graduated from Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri in 1943.

Soon after graduation, Altman joined the US Army Air Forces at the age of 18. During World War II, Altman flew more than 50 bombing missions as a co-pilot of a B-24 Liberator with the 307th Bomb Group in Borneo and the Dutch East Indies.

Upon his discharge in 1947, Altman moved to California. He worked in publicity for a company that had invented a tattooing machine to identify dogs. He entered filmmaking on a whim, selling a script to RKO for the 1948 picture Bodyguard, which he co-wrote with George W. George.

Altman’s success encouraged him to move to New York City, where he attempted to forge a career as writer. Having enjoyed little success, he returned to Kansas City in 1949; where he accepted a job as director and writer of industrial films for the Calvin Company. Altman directed some 65 industrial films and docs for the Calvin Company. Through his early work on industrial films, Altman experimented with narrative technique and developed his characteristic use of overlapping dialogue. In February 2012, an early Calvin film directed by Altman, Modern Football (1951), was found by filmmaker Gary Huggins.

Anderson, Michael

Anderson, Paul Thomas

Anderson, Wes

Antonioni, Michelangelo (Italian for English-speaking film)

Aronofsky, Darren

Ashby, Hal

Attenborough, Richard

Avildsen, John G.


Occupational Inheritance: 


Anderson, Michael:

Parents actors; great aunt, actress; his sons would become actor and producer, respectively

Anderson, Paul Thomas:

Father actor



Abrahamson, Lenny;

Woody Allen (sister later became producer)

Almodovar (brother later became producer)

Altman, Robert

Anderson, Wes



Ashby, Hal

Born in Ogden, Utah, Ashby grew up in a Mormon household, the son of Eileen Ireta (Hetzler) and James Thomas Ashby, a dairy owner. His tumultuous childhood as part of a dysfunctional family included the divorce of his parents, his father’s suicide, and dropping out of high school.

Ashby press falsely stating that he graduated from Utah State University (in Logan, Utah) to ensure he fit into the social milieu of college-educated peers like Coppola and Scorsese.

Ashby was married and divorced by the time he was 19.



Avildsen, John

Babenco, Hector

Beatty, Warren; parents teachers, sister actress Shirley MacLaine.


Benton, Robert

Social Class:

Abrahamson, middle; father solicitor; grandfather physician

Allen, lower middle; father, jewelry engraver and waiter; mother bookkeeper.

Almodovar: lower-middle

Altman: Upper-middle; father wealthy insurance salesman

Anderson, Michael: Middle (Actors)

Anderson, Wes:

Upper-middle; mother realtor and archaeologist; father advertising and public relations. Family: parents divorced when he was 8.

Anderson, Paul Thomas; father actor

Anderson was born in Studio City, Los Angeles, to Edwina and Ernie Anderson, an actor who was the voice of ABC and  Cleveland TV late-night horror movie host known as “Ghoulardi” (which became Anderson’s production company).

Antonioni Upper middle; landowners

Aronofsky: Middle class, parents teachers

Ashby, Hal


Attenborough: Upper-middle; father scholar and academic administrator, fellow at Emmanuel College,

Babenco, Hector, Jewish

Beatty: Upper-middle class; both parents teachers; grandparents also teachers


Benton, Robert: middle class; father telephone company employee; Nationality: US



Abrahamson, UK–Irish

Allen, Woody, US–NYC–Brooklyn

Almodovar, Spanish

Altman, Robert, US, Kansas

Anderson, Michael, UK

Anderson, Paul Thomas: US, LA

Anderson grew up in the San Fernando Valley, the 3rd youngest of 9 children. He had troubled relationship with mother but close with his father, who encouraged him to become writer or director.

Anderson, Wes, U.S.; lives in France

Antonioni: Italian (also English-speaking)

Aronofsky, US

Ashby, Hal, US, Utah

Avildsen, US; Danish descent; born Oak Park, Illinois

Attenborough, UK

Babenco, Hector, Brazil-Argentine

Barrymore, Lionel, US,

Beatty, US, Richmond, Virginia

Benton, Robert, US, Waxahachie, Texas



Abrahamson, Jewish (born); atheist

Allen, Woody, Jewish

Almodovar, Catholic

Altman, Catholic

Anderson, Michael, No Data

Anderson, Wes:

Antonioni: Italian, Catholic

Aronofsky: Jewish

Ashby, Hal: Mormon



Babenco, Jewish

Barrymore, Lionel

Beatty, NO Data


Benton, Robert

Formal Education:

Abrahamson, Lenny: High School and Trinity College Dublin, scholar in philosophy in 1988, after studying physics.

Allen, Woody: City College of NY, 1954, left during first semester. He taught himself; he later taught at New School and studied with writing teacher Lajos Egri.

Almodovar, Pedro: When Almodóvar was 8, he was sent to study at religious boarding school, hoping to become priest. His family joined him in Cáceres, where his father opened gas station and his mother sold her own wine. Unlike Calzada, there was a cinema in Cáceres. “Cinema became my real education, much more than the one I received from the priest,” he said later.

Almodóvar was influenced by Luis Buñuel.

Anderson, Paul Thomas:

Attended Buckley in Sherman Oaks, John Thomas Dye School, Campbell Hall School, Cushing Academy, and Montclair Prep.

Anderson was involved in filmmaking from young age, and never had alternative plan to directing.

He made his first film at 8, and started making films on a Betamax video camera that his father bought in 1982. He later started using 8mm film, but realized that video was easier.

He began writing in adolescence, experimenting with Bolex 16 millimeter camera. After years of experimenting, he wrote and filmed his first feature as senior in high school at Montclair Prep using money earned from cleaning cages at pet store.

Short: The Dirk Diggler Story (1988)–30-minute mockumentary shot on video, about a porn star, inspired by John Holmes, who would serve as major inspiration for Boogie Nights.

Anderson attended Santa Monica College, before spending two semesters as English major at Emerson College where he was taught by David Foster Wallace, and only 2 days at New York University before he began as production assistant on TV, films, music videos and game shows in LA and NY.

Allen, Woody:

Writing short jokes when he was 15, comedy writer; comedian


Against parents’ wishes, he moved to Madrid.

Altman, Robert:

Jesuit schools, Rockhurst High School, Kansas City; grad of Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri in 1943; aged 18.

Upon his discharge from military, in 1947, Altman moved to California. He worked in publicity for a company that had invented tattooing machine to identify dogs.

He entered filmmaking on whim, selling script to RKO for the 1948 picture Bodyguard, which he co-wrote with George W. George.

Anderson, Michael:

MA began as actor; then assistant director on Ustinov’s films School for Secrets, 1946; also co-directed with Ustinov; Solo directorial debut with B film, Waterfront, 1950; age 30.

Anderson, Wes:

University of Texas, Austin, philosophy 1990; aged 21

Aronofsky, Darren:

Harvard University: social anthropology and film

Antonioni: University of Bologna, economics


Univ of Utah (false press release)



A was educated at the Hotchkiss School and at New York University.


Barrymore, Lionel


Beatty: stagehand at National Theatre, Washington, D.C. the summer;

Benton: University of Texas, Columbia University.



Abrahamson, Lenny

Allen, Woody

Altman, Robert


Anderson, Michael

Anderson, Paul Thomas

The material shown to him at film school turned the experience into “homework or a chore,” and he decided to make 20-minute film that would be his “college.”

For $10,000, made up of gambling winnings, his girlfriend’s credit card, and money his father set aside for college, Anderson made Cigarettes & Coffee (1993), a short with multiple story lines with a twenty-dollar bill. The film was screened at the 1993 Sundance Festival Shorts. He decided to expand the film into a feature-length film and was subsequently invited to the 1994 Sundance Feature Film Program. Michael Caton-Jones, who served as Anderson’s mentor, saw him as man with “talent and a fully formed creative voice but not much hands-on experience” and gave him some hard and practical lessons.

While at the Sundance Feature Program, Anderson already had deal with Rysher Entertainment to direct his first feature, Sydney, retitled Hard Eight. After completing the film, Rysher re-edited it. Anderson, who still had workprint of his original cut, submitted the film to the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, where it was shown at the Un Certain Regard section.

Anderson managed to get the version released, but only after he retitled the film, and raised $200,000 to finish it; Anderson, Philip Baker Hall, Gwyneth Paltrow and John C. Reilly contributed the funding. The version released was Anderson’s and its acclaim launched his career.

Anderson, West:

Training: part-time as cinema projectionist

First Film: Bottle Rocket, 1996; aged 27 (based on short)


AFI American Film Institute, directing.

Antonioni: journalist, fascist film magazine, fired; studied film; assistant director, Rossellini

Antonioni: First Film: 1950, age 38 (before that shorts)

Ashby, Hal

Ashby moved from Utah to California, where he pursued a bohemian lifestyle and ultimately became an assistant film editor through a long apprenticeship.

His career gained momentum when he served as the editor of The Loved One (1965), an adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel that involved screenwriter Terry Southern and cinematographer Haskell Wexler.

After being Oscar nominate for Film Editing in 1967 for The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, his big break occurred one year later when he won the award for In the Heat of the Night.  Ashby often stated that the practice of editing provided him with the best filmmaking background outside of traditional university study and he carried the techniques learned as an editor with him when he began directing.

At the urging of mentor Norman Jewison, Ashby directed his first film, The Landlord, about the social dynamics of gentrification in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in 1970.

Training: assistant film editor, long apprenticeship; editor of The Loved One, 1965; Inspiration: Mentor Norman Jewison; 1967 Oscar winner for editing, In the Heat of Night

Avildsen, John

After starting out as assistant director to Arthur Penn and Otto Preminger, he made low-budget feature Joe (1970), which received good notices for Peter Boyle and moderate box-office business.

Avildsen’s first success came with the low-budget cult classic comedy Cry Uncle!, a 1971 film in the Troma Entertainment library that stars Allen Garfield.

This was followed by Save the Tiger (1973), which earned Jack Lemmon his first and only Oscar Award.

Attenborough: training: first, an accomplished actor

Babenco, Hector

Beatty, Warren: dropped out of college, moved to NYC Stella Adler Studio of Acting. TV before Film: shows, Studio One, 1957, Kraft Television Theatre, 1957, aged 24; Playhouse 90, 1959. Theater: “A Loss of Roses” Broadway, 1960 Tony nomination

Inspiration: Philadelphia Story, 1940 (he saw in the 1950s); Love Affair (1939), which he remade in 1994.

Breakthrough: Splendor in Grass, 1961; Bonnie and Clyde, 1967. aged 30, producer and star

Beaumont, Harry: 

Benton, Robert:

first art director, then screenwriter (Bonnie and Clyde)


Directors: Winners & Nominees: 241

A: 12

B: 20

C: 23 (includes Chung)

D:  8

E:  2

F: 13 (includes Fennell)

G:  7

H: 18

I:    2

J:  6

K:  7

L: 21

M: 20

N:   4

O:   1

P:  13


R: 17

S: 19

T:  7


V: 5 (Vinterberg)

W: 10


Y:  1

Z:  5 (includes Zhao)

Total: 241

Winners: 70

Nominees: 171

A (12 directors)

Abrahamson, Lenny:

Allen, Woody

Almodovar, Pedro (Spanish, for Spanish film)

Altman, Robert

Anderson, Michael

Anderson, Paul Thomas

Anderson, Wes

Antonioni, Michelangelo (Italian for English-speaking film)

Aronofsky, Darren

Ashby, Hal

Attenborough, Richard

Avildsen, John G.


B (20 Directors)

Babenco, Hector

Barrymore, Lionel

Beatty, Warren

Beaumont, Harry

Benigni, Roberto

Benton Robert

Beresford, Bruce

Bergman, Ingmar

Bertolucci, Bernardo

Bigelow, Kathryn

Bogdanovich, Peter

Bong, Joon-ho, Korean

Boorman, John

Borzage, Frank

Branagh, Kenneth

Brenon, Herbert

Brest, Martin

Brooks, James L.

Brooks, Richard

Brown, Clarence



C (23 directors)

Cacoyannis, Michael

Cameron, James

Campion, Jane

Capra, Frank

Cardiff, Jack

Cassavetes, John

Cattaneo, Peter

Chaplin, Charles

Chazelle, Damien

Chung, Lee Isaac (Minari)

Cimino, Michael

Clayton, Jack

Clooney, George

Coen, Ethan

Coen, Joel

Coppola, Francis Ford

Coppola, Sofia

Costner, Kevin

Crichton, Michael

Cuaron, Alfonso

Cukor, George

Cummings, Irving

Curtiz, Michael


D (8 directors)

Daldry, Stephen

Daniels, Lee

Dassin, Jules

Del Toro, Guillermo

DeMille, Cecil B.

Demme, Jonathan

Dieterle, William

Dmytryk, Edward



Eastwood, Clint

Egoyan, Atom


F (13)

Farrow, John

Fellini, Federico (Italian, for Italian movies)

Fennell, Emerald (Promising Young Woman)

Figgis, Mike

Fincher, David

Fleming, Victor

Ford, John

Forman, Milos

Forster, Marc

Fosse, Bob

Franklin, Sidney

Frears, Stephen

Friedkin, William


G (7)


Germi, Pietro

Gerwig, Greta

Gibson, Mel

Gilroy, Tony

Glenville, Peter

Greengrass, Paul


H (18)

Hackford, Taylor

Haggis, Paul

Hall, Alexander

Hallstrom, Lasse

Haneke, Michael

Hanson, Curtis

Harvey, Anthony

Hathaway, Henry

Hawks, Howard

Henry, Buck

Hicks, Scott

Hill, George Roy

Hiller, Arthur

Hitchcock, Alfred

Hooper, Tom

Howard, Ron

Hudson, Hugh

Huston, John


I (2)

Innaritu. Alejandro G.

Ivory, James


J (6)

Jackson, Peter

Jaffe, Roland

Jenkins, Barry

Jewison, Norman

Jonze, Spike

Jordan, Neil


K (7)

Kazan, Elia

Kieslowski, Krzystof

King, Henry

Koster, Henry

Kramer, Stanley

Kubrick, Stanley

Kurosawa, Akira


L (21)

La Cava, Gregory

Lang, Walter

Lanthymos, Yorgos

Lean, David

Lee, Spike

Lee, Ang

Leigh, Mike

Lelouch, Claude

Leonard, Robert Z.

LeRoy, Mervyn

Levinson, Barry

Linklater, Richard

Litvak, Anatole

Lloyd, Frank

Logan, Joshua

Lonergan, Kenneth

Lubitsch, Ernst

Lucas, George

Lumet, Sidney

Lynch, David

Lyne, Adrian


M (20)

McCarey, Leo

McCarthy, Tom

McKay, Adam

McQueen, Steve

Madden, John

Malick, Terrence

Malle, Louis

Mankiewicz, Joseph L.

Mann, Delbert

Mann, Michael

Marshall, Rob

Mendes, Sam

Mereilles, Fernando (Brazilian for Brazilian film)

Milestone, Lewis

Miller, Bennett

Miller, George

Minghella, Anthony

Minnelli, Vincente

Molinaro, Eduard

Mulligan, Robert


N (4)

Negulesco, Jean

Nichols, Mike

Nolan, Christopher

Noonan, Chris


O (1)

Olivier, Laurence


P (13)

Pakula, Alan J.

Parker, Alan

Paulikowski, Pawell

Payne, Alexander

Peele, Jordan

Penn, Arthur

Perry, Frank

Petersen, Wolfgang

Phillips, Todd

Polanski, Roman

Pollack, Sydney

Pontecorvio, Gillo

Preminger, Otto


R (17)

Radford, Michael

Redford, Robert

Reed, Carol

Reitman, Jason

Renoir, Jean

Richardson, Tony

Ritt, Martin

Robbins, Jerome

Robbins, Tim

Robson, Mark

Ross, Herbert

Rossen, Robert

Ruggles, Wesley

Rush, Richard

Russell, Ken

Russell, David O.

Rydell, Mark


S (19)

Schafflner, Franklin

Schertzinger, Victor

Schlesinger, John

Schnabel, Julian

Schroeder, Barbet

Scorsese, Martin

Scott, Ridley

Seaton, George

Sheridan, Jim

Shyamalan, M. Night

Singleton, John

Siodmak, Robert

Soderbergh, Steven

Spielberg, Steven

Sternberg, Josef von

Stevens, George

Stevenson, Robert

Stone, Oliver

Sturges, John


T (7)

Tarantino, Quentin

Taurog, Norman

Teshigahara, Hiroshi

Thompson, Lee J.

Troell, Jan

Truffaut, Francois

Tyldun, Morten




V (5)

Van Dyke, W. S.

Van Sant, Gus

Vidor, King

Villeneuve, Denis

Vinterberg, Thomas (Another Round)


W (10)

Walters, Charles

Weir, Peter

Welles, Orson

Wellman, William A.

Wertmueller, Lina

Wilde, Ted

Wilder, Billy

Wise, Robert

Wood, Sam

Wyler, William


Yates, Peter


Z (5)

Zeffirelli, Franco

Zeitlin, Benh

Zemeckis, Robert

Zhao, Chloe (Nomadland)

Zinnemann, Fred