Steven Spielberg was in an upbeat mood last week as he announced the five directors chosen as honorees for the March 2000 DGA Awards at the Directors Guild of America, the morning after the Golden Globes.

The prolific director was still basking in the glory of DreamWorks SKG's Golden Globe sweep of Best Supporting Actress (Kate Hudson in "Almost Famous," which also won Best Comedy/Musical), Best Motion Picture Drama (for "Gladiator"), Best Musical Score (for "Gladiator" composer Hans Zimmer) and Best Dramatic Actor to Tom Hanks for "Cast Away."

Word is that DreamWorks will be re-releasing "Gladiator" and "Almost Famous" next month riding on pre-Oscar buzz.

In an interview with the Business Journal, Spielberg said he and wife Kate Capshaw "were gratified and awed last night as we watched the Golden Globes at home before attending the victory parties."

But it hasn't always been a smooth road for DreamWorks, which began in 1994 when Spielberg and his dream team partners David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg each invested $33 million for a 22 percent stake apiece, along with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who owns 24 percent of the studio.

After years of planning to build their studio in Playa Vista, they ran into a quagmire of environmentalists who were outraged over the possible destruction of the Ballona Wetlands. To make matters worse, while operating at Amblin Studios on the Universal lot in 1997, they released a string of duds, including their very first picture "Peace Maker," starring George Clooney. The film grossed $41.1 million domestically.

They also suffered staggering losses on "The Road to El Dorado," which grossed $50.8 million on a budget of $95 million.

The studio has righted itself, however, and the last few years have seen a tumble of box office hits, with close to $1 billion in box-office revenues in 2000. Among its recent successes have been 1999's Academy Award Winner "American Beauty," which earned $130.1 million domestically; "Gladiator," which has earned $186.7 million domestically; "Meet The Parents" (a co-production with Universal), with $163.4 million in domestic box office; and "What Lies Beneath," with box office of $155.3 million. "Cast Away," still in wide release, has logged $195 million domestically and is expected to make as much as $300 million worldwide.

Spielberg is currently focusing on two projects he'll direct himself. "We are starting 'Minority Report' (after Tom Cruise finishes 'Vanilla Sky') in March of this year, which will be released next year, and 'A.I'. (Artificial Intelligence), which will be released as a 2001 summer blockbuster film."

Speaking of "American Beauty," the writer Alan Ball says it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance that everything worked out so well.

"To write, develop and raise the financing and have it turn out so perfectly is not likely to happen again," he said. So now Ball has turned his talents to the little screen for HBO with a series called "6 Feet Under," a black comedy about a mortician's family.

"It is great to write for actors every day," said Ball who has no plans for another movie in the near future.

Contributing reporter Anita Talbert can be reached via e-mail at anita@la.com

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