Best Director nominees

Who are the 2016 nominees for the Best Director Oscar?

Age: 49

Nominated for: Room. The drama concerns a young woman (Brie Larson) abducted by a man and kept prisoner in his shed for many years, who struggles to care for her child (Jacob Tremblay), and later to adapt to the outside world. The director convinced novelist and fellow Dubliner Emma Donoghue to allow him to adapt her bestselling book by sending her an erudite 10-page letter referencing Plato's allegory of the cave.

Oscars history: This is only Abrahamson's fifth full-length feature, and his first Oscar nomination.

Room: watch the trailer Play!

What the critics said: The Telegraph's Tim Robey wasn't entirely won over by the film, but he was impressed by the director's "gentle humanity", writing that "Abrahamson scores very highly in making the daily rituals of this malnourished pair come credibly alive."

In his own words: “I’m swimming in this warm flow of hype and buzz, which is very pleasurable, and means I don’t really have to think about anything. And I have a voice saying ‘God, Lenny, you’re shallow. Why does this matter to you?’ But it does.”

Did you know?: Abrahamson studied theoretical physics at Trinity College, Dublin, and later won a scholarship to pursue a PhD in philosophy at Stanford University.

Alejandro González Iñárritu and Leonardo DiCaprio on the set of The Revenant Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Age: 52

Nominated for: The Revenant. Much has been written about Iñárritu's punishing approach to filming this epic of a 19th-century fur-trapper (Leonardo DiCaprio) who survives a bear attack and drags himself across icy wastelands to seek revenge on the men who left him for dead. The director shot only in natural light, which meant the film's shoot lasted for nine months, and his quest for authenticity in sub-zero temperatures led to crew branding the experience a "living hell".

Oscars history: The Mexican director was nominated for Best Director for Babel (2006) and won it for Birdman last year; he also shared in Birdman's victories in the Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay categories.

The Revenant: watch the trailer Play!

What the critics said: There have been almost no dissenting voices in the chorus of praise that has greeted Iñárritu's achievement. "What a preposterously enjoyable film DiCaprio and his director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, have cooked up, " wrote the Telegraph's Robbie Collin, "a glistening, gut-wrenching wilderness concerto grosso, drunk on blockbuster quantities of self-importance and with the coppery tang of machismo pricking on its palate."

In his own words: “This film deserves to be watched in a temple."

Did you know?: In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Iñárritu was Mexico City's number-one-rated radio DJ.

Tom McCarthy

Director Tom McCarthy (right) with one of his Spotlight stars, Mark Ruffalo Credit: Getty Images/Imeh Akpanudosen

Oscars history: As well as this year's Best Director nomination, McCarthy also also been nominated for co-writing the film's screenplay. He was previously nominated for Best Original Screenplay for his work on the Pixar animation Up.

Spotlight: watch the trailer Play!

What the critics said: It's been a strange year for McCarthy, who also directed a terrible flop in the shape of the Adam Sandler-starring comedy The Cobbler. "McCarthy’s early films marked him out as a craftsman of mature and thoughtful dramas, " wrote the Telegraph's Robbie Collin. "After The Cobbler, Spotlight almost qualifies as a comeback: either way, it’s a significant step up."

In his own words: "I think Spotlight probably is a better movie because of The Cobbler. You learn with every movie you make, you learn from your mistakes and you learn from your achievements, and I really do have that approach to filmmaking."

Did you know?: McCarthy, who is also an actor, played a journalist in The Wire and a priest in a 1998 episode of the political comedy Spin City.

Adam McKay directs Christian Bale in the financial-crash comedy The Big Short

Age: 47

Nominated for: The Big Short. This is McKay's first "serious" film, having previously directed movies such as Anchorman and Step Brothers, both with his long-time collaborator Will Ferrell. Adapted from Michael Lewis's bestseller about the financial crash of 2007-8, it tells the story of the men who bet against the overheated housing market, and made millions when the bubble burst.

Oscars history: McKay has also been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay; these are his first two Oscar nominations.

The Big Short: watch the trailer Play! 02:25

What the critics said: Critics were wowed by McKay's ability to turn the world of obscure financial instruments into a hilarious, scalpel-sharp dissection of the failures of Wall Street. As the Telegraph's Robbie Collin put it: "His film somehow not only makes sense of mortgage bonds, collateralised debt obligations and credit default swaps, but makes them funny too."

In his own words: “Audiences are smarter than people think. Here we treat them like economists, and so far they seem to be going with it.”

Did you know?: McKay's daughter, Pearl, makes an appearance in a montage early in the film. She's the toddler saying, "I want my money", an excerpt from a Funny or Die sketch in which she played Will Ferrell's ferocious infant landlord.

Charlize Theron takes direction from George Miller on the set of 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Credit: Warner Bros/Village Roadshow Films/Jasin Boland

Age: 70

Nominated for: Mad Max: Fury Road. The film marked Miller's return to the post-apocalyptic wasteland he first conjured up with the help of Mel Gibson in 1979's Mad Max, and its sequels The Road Warrior (1981) and Beyond Thunderdome (1985). This time around, Tom Hardy stepped into Mel's shoes, alongside Charlize Theron's one-armed Imperator Furiosa, as the pair raced to rescue five women from the clutches of a power-crazed warlord.

Oscars history: Miller won the award for Best Animated Feature in 2007, for directing the penguin-powered children's film Happy Feet. He was also nominated for co-writing the screenplay of Lorenzo's Oil (1992), and for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture for Babe (1995).

Mad Max Fury Road: Official Trailer Play! 02:54

What the critics said: Almost everyone was blown away by Miller's juggernaut of a film, with critics praising both its explosive action sequences and its surprisingly feminist sensibility. "With its spare dialogue and dazzlingly choreographed and edited stunts, Miller’s film often feels like a great silent movie, " said the Telegraph's Robbie Collin, "albeit a very loud one."

In his own words: “I’ve never seen one of my movies before with a crowd that applauded throughout. Lots of cheering, oohs and ahhs, and laughter. Which is what you try so hard to do.”

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