Scorsese earned a nomination Thursday for the guild's best-director honor for his sprawling epic "The Aviator" (search), a film biography starring Leonardo DiCaprio (search) as aviation pioneer and Hollywood rebel Howard Hughes.
Also nominated was Clint Eastwood (search) for his boxing drama "Million Dollar Baby" (search); Marc Forster for "Finding Neverland," a whimsical look at the inspirations behind J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan"; Taylor Hackford for the Ray Charles film biography "Ray"; and Alexander Payne for the quirky road-trip flick "Sideways."
The winner will be announced at the guild's 57th annual dinner Jan. 29, one of Hollywood's warmups for the Academy Awards (search) on Feb. 27.
The guild honors have a good track record at predicting who will go home with the best-director Academy Award. Only six times since 1949 has the guild recipient failed to go on to win the Oscar.
Scorsese generally has been viewed as the front-runner to win both the guild prize and the best-directing Oscar. He has been nominated five times before by the guild and four times by academy voters, but he has never won either honor.
The guild honored Scorsese with a lifetime-achievement award in 2003, when he also was nominated for "Gangs of New York" but lost to Rob Marshall for "Chicago."
Eastwood, who also stars with Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman in "Million Dollar Baby," earned his second-straight guild nomination following 2003's "Mystic River." He won the guild prize and the best-director Oscar for 1992's "Unforgiven."
Hackford, previously nominated for 1982's "An Officer and a Gentleman," was a surprise nominee this time. While "Ray" (search) star Jamie Foxx (search) has received great awards buzz, Hackford generally has been overlooked at earlier Hollywood honors, including December's Golden Globe nominations.
Forster and Payne, both first-time guild nominees, also received best-director nominations for the Golden Globes, whose awards ceremony is Jan. 16.