Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
James Cameron, Avatar
Director James Cameron has only been nominated for one other Best Director Oscar® (which he won) for the romantic epic Titanic, but he's also known for his work on films like The Terminator, Aliens and True Lies. His work on Avatar catapulted Cameron to a league of his own, as the only director to have two films break the billion-dollar mark worldwide. Though his films have always distinguished themselves with their large-scale and crowd-pleasing special effects, Avatar pushed those limits farther than ever before using 3D technology to bring his fantasy world, which had been brewing in his imagination for almost 15 years, to life. Cameron won a Best Director Golden Globe® for his work on Avatar.
Photo: Summit Entertainment
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Nominated for her work on the Iraq war film The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow is only the fourth woman to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar®. Bigelow was also at the helm for 1991's Point Break and 1995's Strange Days, but has earned household name status with her work on The Hurt Locker, which won her a Best Director Critics Choice Award®. The intense film follows three soldiers and bomb-disposal specialists and has been hailed as the first honest depiction of what it means to be a modern-day soldier fighting in the Middle East.
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Two-time Oscar® nominee Jason Reitman has only directed three feature films, but he's no stranger to Hollywood. Growing up, it was his father, Ivan Reitman, who received recognition as the director of hilarious hits like Ghostbusters and Stripes. In 2005, Reitman directed his first feature, Thank You for Smoking, which was nominated for two Golden Globes®. After this early success, Reitman teamed up with screenwriter Diablo Cody for the offbeat comedy Juno, for which he earned his first Oscar nomination. His latest nomination is for Up in the Air, about a corporate downsizer who is passionate about his solitary way of life until an eager young colleague and a beautiful woman turn his idea of happiness upside down.
Photo: The Weinstein Company
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
The director of fan favorites like Pulp Fiction and both Kill Bill volumes, three-time Oscar® nominee Quentin Tarantino has earned himself something of a cult following. Other beloved films in the Best Director nominee's repertoire include Sin City, Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown. Aside from directing, Tarantino has received much critical acclaim for his work as a screenwriter. He won his only Oscar for the Pulp Fiction screenplay and is nominated this year both for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Inglourious Basterds, a film about Jewish American Nazi hunters in World War II France.
Lee Daniels, Precious
First-time Oscar® nominee Lee Daniels has been lauded for his work on Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, about an illiterate teenager who is pregnant with her second baby. Daniels made his directorial debut in 2005 with Shadowboxer, about a female assassin diagnosed with terminal cancer, where he worked with actress Mo'Nique for the first time. For his work on Precious, Daniels has been credited with bringing out stellar performances from actresses Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey and newcomer Gabby Sidibe. Daniels has said he felt compelled to bring Precious to the big screen to help heal the scars from his relationship with his own abusive father.