Sean Penn earned a nomination Tuesday as best filmmaker from the Directors Guild of America for his tragic road tale "Into the Wild," along with Joel and Ethan Coen for their bloody crime saga "No Country for Old Men."
Also nominated: Paul Thomas Anderson for his historical epic "There Will Be Blood," starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a baron of California's oil boom in the early 20th century; Tony Gilroy for his legal drama "Michael Clayton," featuring George Clooney as a conscience-torn attorney in a corporate lawsuit; and Julian Schnabel for his real-life memoir "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," with Mathieu Amalric as French Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was paralyzed by a stroke.
Penn's "Into the Wild" stars Emile Hirsch in the true-life story of Christopher McCandless, a young idealist whose two-year tramp around America ended in tragedy in the Alaska wilderness.
The Coens' "No Country for Old Men" features Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin in the tale of a sheriff and a vicious killer both on the trail of a good old Texan who makes off with a fortune left behind at a drug deal gone awry.
Except for Joel Coen, previously nominated for "Fargo," the guild choices all were first-time nominees.
Throughout the 60-year history of the guild honors, the winner almost always has gone on to win the best-directing prize at the Academy Awards, including last year's recipient, Martin Scorsese for "The Departed."
The guild will announce the winner at a dinner Jan. 26, four days after Oscar nominations come out. The Oscars are scheduled for Feb. 24.