Oscar Directors: Scorsese, Only Director in History to Win at Sixth Nomination

Feb 25, 2007–Six proves to be the lucky charm for Martin Scorsese tonight, when he finally won the Best Director Oscar for “The Departed.” Scorsese was finally embraced by Hollywood, an industry that has snubbed him before for such good pictures as “Raging Bull” in 1980 and “GoodFellas” in 1990.

Winning last night, Scorsese established some records. He is the only filmmaker to have won the Best Director at his sixth nominations. In the Academy’s history, several directors won the Oscar at their fifth, but not sixth, nomination.

William Wyler

This group includes William Wyler, who won the Oscar in 1942, for “Mrs. Miniver,” after being nominated for “Dodsworth” (1936), “Wuthering Heights” (1939), “The Letter” (1940), and “The Little Foxes” (1941). Wyler more than made up for this early neglect, when he won two more Oscars, for “The Best Years of Our Lives” in 1946 and for “Ben-Hur” in 1959. Wyler still holds the record as the director with the largest number of nominations (12); his last nod was in 1965 for “The Collector.”

George Cukor

A contemporary of Wyler, George Cukor is the only other director to have the Oscar at his fifth nomination, in 1964 for the musical “My Fair Lady.” Cukor was first Oscar-nominated in 1933 for “Little Women,” then in 1940 for “The Philadelphia Story,” in 1947 for “A Double Life,” and in 1950 for “Born Yesterday.”

If Spielberg seemed particularly happy for his colleague and friend Scorsese, it’s because he knows all too well how it feels to wait for years in order to get the Academy’s recognition. Spielberg is one of two directors to have won the Oscar at his fourth nomination, for “Schindler’s List.”

Both Scorsese and Spielberg have been nominated 6 times for the Director Oscar. Spielberg was nominated for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977), “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), and “E.T.” (1982), and he won a second Director Oscar for “Saving Private Ryan” in 1998.

The only other filmmaker who won the Oscar at his fourth nomination is the late Brit David Lean, for “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” in 1957. Previously, Lean received nods for “Brief Encounter” (1946), “Great Expectations” (1947) and “Summertime” (1955)

Scorsese, Second Oldest Winner

Using age at first win as a criterion, Scorsese now becomes the second oldest winner among the directors. At 64, he is one year younger than Cukor, who was 65 when he won the award. The four oldest directors to win the Oscar are: Cukor, Scorsese, Carol Reed, 62, and Clint Eastwood, also 62.

Technically speaking, Eastwood holds the record of being the oldest-winning director. He was 74 when he received the Oscar for “Million Dollar Baby,” but that was his second win; as noted above, Eastwood’s first win was in 1992 for “Unforgiven,” age 62. (My article is about age at first winning the Director Oscar).

Next in Line

Who’s next in line Several gifted directors still stand in the wings waiting to assume the Oscar spotlight. Peter Weir has been nominated four times, but never won an Oscar. Will he be compensated with an Honorary Oscar in the near future The Academy has bestowed the Honorary Oscar as a corrective measure on such major losers as Hitchcock (5 nominations), Altman (also 5), Sidney Lumet (4), and Norman Jewison (3)

Among active filmmakers, David Lynch, James Ivory, and Ridley Scott, have each been nominated three times but have not yet won the golden statuette.