Scorsese finally wins Oscar for directing

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Martin Scorsese finally won the Oscar for best film director on Sunday with the crime thriller “The Departed,” ending one of the highest-profile losing streaks in the event’s 79-year history.

Best Director winner Martin Scorsese of "The Departed" backstage at the 79th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, February 25, 2007. REUTERS/Mike Blake

“Could you double-check the envelope? I’m overwhelmed,” Scorsese, 64, said, as he accepted the award from fellow directing titans Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.

Scorsese had been passed over again and again for works including “Raging Bull,” “Taxi Driver,” and “Mean Streets.”

Paradoxically, his victory came for a populist effort that was released with no intentions of seeking awards. Returning to his crime roots, Scorsese gathered an all-star cast, headed by Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon to fashion a story about official corruption in Boston.

It quickly became the biggest film of his career, selling more than $131 million worth of tickets at the North American box office. It picked up five Academy Award nominations in all. In addition to best director, it won for best picture, William Monahan’s adapted screenplay and Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing.

In recent years, Scorsese campaigned mightily for 2002 historical drama “Gangs of New York” and two years later Howard Hughes biopic “The Aviator,” but he failed to reel in the big award.

“The Departed” tells of an undercover Massachusetts state cop, played by DiCaprio, who infiltrates a criminal gang to catch a mole for the mob (Damon) in the state police.

Many of his peers like Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood, who also was nominated this year for directing Japanese language drama “Letters From Iwo Jima,” previously won Oscars.

The other nominees were Clint Eastwood for “Letters from Iwo Jima,” Mexico’s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for cultural drama “Babel,” and two British directors, Stephen Frears for “The Queen,” about the British royal family, and Paul Greengrass with September 11 drama, “United 93.”