Birdman filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will battle it out with Richard Linklater, Wes Anderson, Morten Tyldum and Clint Eastwood for the top prize at the 2015 Directors Guild of America (Dga) Awards.
Officials at the Dga unveiled the shortlist for the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film honour on Tuesday (13Jan15), revealing first-time nominations for Linklater (Boyhood), Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Tyldum (The Imitation Game).
Eastwood's nod for American Sniper was his fourth, while Mexican director Inarritu was previously nominated for Babel in 2006.
Announcing the top picks in a statement, Dga President Paris Barclay writes, "In a year full of excellent films, Dga members have nominated a stellar group of passionate filmmakers.
"Inspiring and artistic, these five directors made films that left an indelible impact not only on their fellow directors and members of the director's team, but on audiences around the world. Congratulations to all of the nominees for their terrific work."
The eventual winner will be given a big boost for the Academy Awards as the Dga champ typically goes on to repeat their success at the Oscars, as Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron did last year (14), after being feted by the Dga.
The other nominations in Tv and documentary categories will be unveiled on Wednesday (14Jan15).
The full list of winners will be revealed at the 67th Directors Guild of America Awards in Los Angeles on 7 February (15).