Clint Eastwood was votedbest director by the Directors Guild of America (DGA) at the weekend for MillionDollar Baby, strengthening his claim on next month's Academy Award.

The DGA honour is a key indicator of Oscar success, with 50 out of 56recipients going on to win it since the inception of the DGA awards in 1949.

Eastwood went head-to-head with a strong field this year, including MartinScorsese for The Aviator, Alexander Payne for Sideways, MarcForster for Finding Neverland, and Taylor Hackford for Ray.

He last won the DGA award in 1993 for Unforgiven, which also earnedhim the Academy Award.

"I've got to say, this is a real pleasure," Eastwood told the audience atthe Beverly Hills ceremony. "I am as pleased a punch."

Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni won the OutstandingDirectorial Achievement in Documentary for 2004 for The Story Of The WeepingCamel, which is nominated for an Oscar.