Legendary Hollywood director Martin Scorsese is the favourite to win the Directors Guild of America's (DGA) most prestigious award of the year.
The 64-year-old is among five nominees in the running for the outstanding directorial achievement in feature film for 2006 award.
Scorsese, who famously has never won an Oscar, receives the nod for undercover cop thriller The Departed, a remake of cult Hong Kong classic Infernal Affairs.
Starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg, The Departed is the American director's highest-grossing film of all time.
Other hopefuls for the DGA award are Britain's Stephen Frears for acclaimed drama The Queen, and Dreamgirls director Bill Condon.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is also nominated for Babel, while Little Miss Sunshine co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris complete the list.
DGA president Michael Apted said of the contenders: "Each of these five nominees has demonstrated a remarkable ability to blend craft and vision in the pursuit of masterful storytelling.
"What makes it truly meaningful to directors is that this award is decided solely by their peers - the men and women who know first hand the passion, sweat and fear that goes into creating feature films. My congratulations to each of the nominees."
The overall winner will be announced at the Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, on February 3rd.
The DGA's choice for the accolade has traditionally served as a reliable indicator as to who will scoop the best director award in February's Oscars.