which also won a key victory at the Producers Guild Awards last weekend.
Silent film The Artist won 10 nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress among others. The film is about silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) who wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion.
"I don't know what frontrunner means, because I've never been through this before," Hazanavicius (left, with his star and wife Berenice Bejo) said to TheWrap a few minutes after winning.
"The movie started so low -- so unusual, nobody wanted to put money into it -- and it has now gone so high that it's really beautiful. We're just enjoying it day after day, ceremony after ceremony, awards after awards."
Speaking of his DGA competition, he added, "It would have been no problem to lose to Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, David Fincher or Alexander Payne. But of course, it's great to win."
In the 63-year history of the DGA Awards, its winner has gone on to win the Oscar for Best Director all but six times. In 50 of those cases, including the last five in a row, the DGA winner's film has also been named Best Picture.
In the documentary category, James Marsh won for Project Nim over competition that included double nominee Scorsese for "George Harrison: Living in the Material World" and Steve James for "The Interrupters."
Unlike the feature film category, the doc category can't have any influence on the Oscar race: Project Nim wasn't nominated by the Academy. (Only one DGA nominee, Joe Berlinger's and Bruce Sinofsky's Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, was.)
Robert B. Weide won the television comedy award for an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, while Patty Jenkins won the drama award for the pilot to The Killing.
The award for a television movie or miniseries went to Jon Kassar for The Kennedys -- a sweet outcome for a controversial series that was dropped by the History Channel for being "not fit for the History brand," and picked up by ReelzChannel.
The DGA victory for Hazanavicius abolished any momentum that may have come when Scorsese's Hugo topped The Artist in overall Oscar nominations, 11 to 10. The DGA was in many ways the last chance for Scorsese's film to establish itself as a strong rival; it is not nominated at Sunday night's Screen Actors Guild Awards, where The Artist will be competing for three awards, including one for its ensemble cast.
Hazanavicius was one of the three directorial nominees present at the ceremony; David Fincher attended a DGA event in the morning but then got on a plane for the Japanese premiere of his film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, while Woody Allen famously shuns awards ceremonies.
Allen did send a video clip in which he thanked the DGA for the nomination, comparing it to other potential honors: "It's somewhere between the top of the spectrum, the Nobel Prize, and the bottom, which is, say, [winning] the Republican primary," he said.
The show took place in the Grand Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland Center. It was hosted by Kelsey Grammer, who used his opening monologue both to pay tribute to frequent DGA Awards host Carl Reiner and to tweak the organization because of last year's marathon 75th anniversary show.
"The only reason Carl can't host the show this year," said Grammer, "is that he's still hosting last year's show."
DGA president Taylor Hackford opened the ceremony by asking the guests to stand and raise a toast to the late Gil Cates, a longtime DGA officer and supporter.
(Photo by Fredrick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Feature Film: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Documentary: James Marsh, Project Nim
Movies for Television and Mini-Series: Jon Kassar, The Kennedys
Dramatic Series: Patty Jenkins, The Killing: pilot
Comedy Series: Robert B. Weide, Curb Your Enthusiasm: Palestinian Chicken
Musical Variety: Glenn Weiss, The 65th Annual Tony Awards
Reality Programs: Neil P. DeGroot, Biggest Loser: Episode #1115
Daytime Serials: William Ludel, General Hospital: Intervention
Children's Programs: Amy Schatz, A Child's Garden of Poetry
Commercials: Noam Murro, Handlebar Moustache, Hot House, Pinata, Is It Real?
Frank Capra Achievement Award: Katy Garretson
Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award: Dennis Mazzocco
Honorary Life Membership: Ed Sherin