Joel and Ethan Coen
No Country for Old Men
The brothers won Best Original Screenplay for 1996's Fargo, and received nominations for editing Fargo and for writing the adapted screenplay of O Brother, Where Art Thou? Joel also snagged a directing nod for Fargo.
The Coens, Minnesota-bred sons of an economist dad and an art-historian mom, are characteristically understated in giving direction behind the camera. ''After a scene, they were never, 'Wow, man, that was great,''' recalls No Country star Josh Brolin. ''Every time I'd look at Ethan or Joel but especially Ethan and go, 'How was that?' he'd kind of shrug and go, 'Ehhh.' It took me a while to figure out that that meant 'That was fantastic; we got what we wanted, but we can do another one if you want.'''
They wrote and directed Burn After Reading, a CIA-themed black comedy starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt, due later this year. Gregory Kirschling
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Death Becomes Him
For seven years, Schnabel had planned to make a film adaptation of Patrick Suskind's novel Perfume (which German director Tom Tykwer eventually made in 2006). But then the painter/director submerged himself in this true story of a French magazine editor who becomes a quadriplegic with locked-in syndrome. ''When my father died, I needed to figure out how to deal with his death,'' Schnabel explains. ''So I found peace in this film.''
Found in Translation
He admits it was a risk to direct the movie in French, a language he barely spoke. ''I believe necessity is the mother of invention,'' he says, ''and I had to do it in order to make the movie the right way.''
He shot Lou Reed's 2006 performance of his 1973 album, Berlin, for a feature-length concert movie that's seeking U.S. distribution. Christine Spines
30 Oscar History
Scion of the Times
He's the son of director-producer Ivan Reitman, whose '80s hits include Stripes and Ghostbusters. ''It's given me an odd perspective,'' the younger Reitman says of his upbringing. ''Once or twice in a career you make something that just works, and it connects. I didn't know I was having that movie, but I'm beginning to realize that I am.''
Diablo Cody's script ''almost reflects a new syntax and vocabulary that has come from the Internet,'' he says. ''If you read the blogs, people talk this way, using common expressions, things we'd hear in TV commercials, and blending them into a dialogue.''
He's producing director Karyn Kusama's horror film Jennifer's Body. Sean Smith
Before making his directing debut with Clayton, Gilroy co-wrote the Bourne movies and worked ''shoulder-to-shoulder'' with Taylor Hackford on three films in an informal apprenticeship. ''He couldn't have been more inclusive,'' Gilroy says. ''I was involved in everything.''
Who Needs Netflix?
Clayton is heavily influenced by the 1970s-era movies that both Gilroy and star George Clooney love. For inspiration, ''we watched Klute a lot,'' says Gilroy. ''And we screened two films we couldn't get on DVD, The Friends of Eddie Coyle and Prince of the City.''
In March, Gilroy is set to direct Julia Roberts and Clive Owen in the corporate thriller Duplicity, which he also wrote. Gregory Kirschling
Paul Thomas Anderson
There Will Be Blood
First directing nomination, though he copped Best Original Screenplay nods for 1997's Boogie Nights and 1999's Altman-esque saga Magnolia.
Speaking of Altman...
Prior to filming Blood, Anderson served as backup director on the ailing auteur's final movie, A Prairie Home Companion. (Altman died after its release in 2006.)
After 2002's Punch-Drunk Love, Anderson was struggling with another script when he picked up Upton Sinclair's novel Oil! and began writing scenes based on the first few chapters. ''I didn't think I would end up adapting the book, but it just turned out that way,'' he says.
Though set in Southern California, Blood was shot in Texas. ''I wanted to make an adventure film out in the desert,'' he says. ''We built ourselves an 80-foot oil derrick, and every moment you were on it, you were in peril of something or someone falling.''
Nothing confirmed. Jeff Jensen