Steven Spielberg was overwhelmed when he discovered he had been nominated for the Best Director Oscar for controversial new movie Munich, because it justified all the criticism he has had to face.

The Saving Private Ryan director's depiction of the Israeli secret service's counter-violence in the wake of the Palestinian terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympic Games has come under fire particularly on the internet where many people were against everything it stands for.

But recognition of the quality of his project left Spielberg feeling like an excited child.

He says, "I didn't expect it, honestly. I got a phone call at 10 to six (am), and my wife picked it up and handed it to me, and I think I displayed the kind of happiness a nine-year-old shows. I was so happy my teeth started to itch.

"I think the biggest obstacle in our path were the armchair warriors who blogged badly about the film before even seeing it. The idea of the picture is a hot-button topic. But we lit a fire on purpose to get people talking."

The film is nominated in four additional categories, including Best Picture.