LOS ANGELES, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Actor-turned-filmmaker Ben Affleck won the top honor from his peers at the Directors Guild of America on Saturday for the movie "Argo", cementing the Iran hostage drama's frontrunner status for the Oscars.
The Hollywood directors' recognition for Affleck, however, is an awkward result for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which failed to nominate him for Best Director in what is considered one of the biggest snubs of this year's Oscars.
Since 1948, there have been only six occasions when the Directors Guild of America (DGA) winner has not gone on to win the Oscar for Best Director.
"I have nothing but respect for the Academy," Affleck said after collecting his first DGA award. The Hollywood star, a producer of "Argo", said he was thrilled the film was nominated for the Oscars' Best Picture award.
"You are not entitled to win anything," he said.
The DGA is often a good indicator of Oscar winners as DGA members are also members of the Academy. The Oscar for Best Picture also often goes to the winner of the DGA's award. The Oscars will be held on Feb. 24.
Affleck triumphed on Saturday over four directors who have all won the top DGA honor and gone on to win the Best Director Oscar.
Among those defeated on Saturday was Steven Spielberg, whose Civil War-era drama "Lincoln" has lost to "Argo" in successive award ceremonies this season. The two-time DGA winner for "Schindler's List" in 1994 and "Saving Private Ryan" in 1999 collected his 11th nomination from his peers with "Lincoln".
The other three unsuccessful nominees were Kathryn Bigelow for Osama bin Laden-manhunt thriller "Zero Dark Thirty," Ang Lee for his 3D adaptation of the bestselling novel "Life of Pi", and Tom Hooper, for his screen adaptation of the hit musical "Les Miserables".
In "Argo", which is based on a real account, Affleck also plays the lead role of a CIA agent entrusted with extracting six Americans from revolutionary Iran after the U.S. embassy is stormed. The agent, with help from Hollywood, creates a fake film and makes the Americans part of the crew.
So far in the awards season, Affleck has won Best Director at the Golden Globes while "Argo" won Best Drama. The cast was also recognized with the top honor from the Screen Actors Guild.
"There was a point in my life where I was really down and really confused ... didn't know what was going to happen and I thought 'I could be a director'," Affleck told the high-power Hollywood crowd on Saturday.
"I don't believe this makes me a real director, but I think I am on my way," he said.
Another young director also collected a top award on Saturday - Lena Dunham for Best Comedy Series for "Girls", the HBO show about four girls in Brooklyn and their travails over sex, work and making it in the big city.
"This is surreal, which I know is an over-used Los Angeles word," said Dunham, who often appears in the show she created wearing little or no clothes.
Editing by Pravin Char