LOS ANGELES -- The Directors Guild of America announced its nominations for best director of 1988 Tuesday, with the makers of three comedies among the five contenders for an award considered the harbinger of the Oscar.
Nominated were Robert Zemeckis for 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' Charles Crichton for 'A Fish Called Wanda,' Mike Nichols for 'Working Girl,' and Alan Parker for 'Mississippi Burning' and Barry Levinson for 'Rain Man.'
In announcing the nominations, previous winner Steven Spielberg said: 'There are some happy surprises here.'
The 9,000-member Director Guild of America will announce the winner at the guild's 41st annual awards presentation March 11. Only three times in Hollywood history has the winner of the DGA award failed to garner the Oscar for best director.
The nominations were surprising by their inclusion of so many comedies while omitting Clint Eastwood,director of 'Bird,' and Sidney Lumet, who directed 'Running on Empty.' Both 'Bird' and 'Running on Empty' received critical acclaim.
All but 'Mississippi Burning,' were top box office hits, with only 'A Fish Called Wanda' not currently showing.
But 'Mississippi Burning,' 'Rain Man' and 'Working Girl' were in the top 10 in the box office last week. Crichton was previously nominated in 1952 for his 'The Lavender Hill Mob.' Levinson and Zemeckis, however, have never before been nominated for the DGA award.
Parker was nominated in 1978 for 'Midnight Express.' Nichols won the award in 1967 for 'The Graduate.' He was also nominated in 1966 for 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.'
Crichton's 'A Fish Called Wanda,' starred John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline as principles in a botched London bank heist.
Zemeckis was nominated for his integration of animated cartoons and live action in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' The movie was last year's top box-office attraction.
Nichols' 'Working Girl' is a Cinderella-meets-Wall Street story of a secretary who steals her boss' boyfriend while climbing the coporate ladder.
In the two drama films, Parker's 'Mississippi Burning' recounts the drama of three civil rights workers killed in the south, while Levinson's 'Rain Man' stars Dustin Hoffman as an autistic savant and Tom Cruise as his brother.
The three directors who have won the DGA award but failed to win the Oscar were: Spielberg, nominated in 1985 for 'The Color Purple,' Francis Ford Coppola, nominated in 1972 for 'The Godfather,' and Anthony Havey in 1968 for 'The Lion in Winter.'
The DGA was to announce nominees for best direction in television and TV commercials Monday.