Writing for Variety is fun because it opens the door to interviewing just about anyone. I remember the day George Clooney left a message on my cellphone and I'd play the message back for people at parties. I've had the good fortune now of speaking with just about every Oscar directing nominee this year. On the eve of the Directors Guild awards, to be announced Saturday, long a harbinger for the Oscar directing category, I spoke with Danny Boyle, David Fincher, Ron Howard, Chris Nolan and Gus Van Sant for this Variety article about their influences for these particular films. Perhaps it's presumptious to assume that all directors contemplate other director's work before proceeding forwards, but aside from Fincher, all of them did, in fact, cite specific influences, whether Alan J. Pakula's "All the President's Men" for Ron Howard's take on "Frost/Nixon" or Michael Mann's "Heat" for Christopher Nolan's rendition of "The Dark Knight." I suspect even iconoclasts such as Lars von Trier or Leos Carax are thinking about their cinematic predecessors, even though how they jump off from that original material is drastically different.