The lively pool includes Michel Hazanavicius and Alexander Payne, while Clint Eastwood, Terrence Malick, Stephen Daldry and Steven Spielberg are shut out.

The nominees and their prior DGA history in alphabetical order are:

Woody Allen, Midnight In Paris
Allen has earned four prior nominations, winning in 1977 for Annie Hall, for which he also won the Academy Award. He received the DGA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. 

David Fincher, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Fincher’s third nomination without a win. He is also still seeking that elusive first Oscar win.

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
This is the filmmaker’s first nomination.

Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Payne’s second nomination after Sideways in 2004.

Martin Scorsese, Hugo
This is Scorsese’s ninth nomination. He won the DGA award in 2006 for The Departed, which also earned him his first and so far only best director Academy Award. In 1999 he collected the Filmmaker Award at the inaugural DGA Honors Gala, and received the DGA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.

The winner will be unveiled at the 64th Annual DGA awards on Jan 28, 2012 in Los Angeles.

Famously, the DGA winner offers an uncannily reliable forecast of who will claim the best director Oscar. Only six times since the DGA Awards began in 1948 has the winner not gone on to win the best director Oscar. The exceptions are

The six exceptions are as follows:

1968: Anthony Harvey won the DGA Award for The Lion In Winter but it was Carol Reed who claimed the Oscar for Oliver!

1972: Francis Ford Coppola was the DGA’s choice for The Godfather but Bob Fosse won the Academy Award for Cabaret.

1985: Steven Spielberg received his first DGA Award for The Color Purple, however the Oscar went to Sydney Pollack for Out Of Africa.

1995: Ron Howard was selected by the DGA for Apollo 13 but it was Mel Gibson who took home the Oscar for Braveheart.

2000: Ang Lee won the DGA Award for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon while Steven Soderbergh won the Academy Award for Traffic.

2002: Rob Marshall was the DGA’s choice for Chicago but Roman Polanski triumphed at the Academy Award for The Pianist