VMA Winners David Fincher, Spike Jonze, Others Became High-Profile Directors

Jonze went from directing Weezer's "Buddy Holly" video to an Oscar nomination for "Being John Malkovich."

Somewhere between directing Will Smith (in “I Am Legend”) and Robert Pattinson (in “Water For Elephants”), Francis Lawrence took some time away from Hollywood to helm Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” music video. Before Dave Meyers stepped into Pink’s “Funhouse” video, he led Sophia Bush through the bloody terror of “The Hitcher.”

There’s long been a connection between feature-length movies and music videos, and Lawrence and Meyers — both of whom are nominated for Best Direction at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards — are just two of the folks who have worked in both mediums. Perhaps in the future, we might see Hype Williams, another of this year’s nominees, traveling from Jay-Z’s New York-centric “Empire State of Mind” to Tinseltown.

Before the show goes live on Sunday, September 12, and we see which helmer triumphs, let’s take a look back at some of the most successful Hollywood directors who have won Best Direction at the MTV Video Music Awards.

David Fincher
Almost two decades before Fincher nabbed an Oscar nod for directing “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” he won the VMA directing award for Madonna’s “Express Yourself.” The next year he won again — this time for Madge’s “Vogue” — becoming the only director in MTV history to win Best Direction two years in a row. After collaborating with the Queen of Pop, Fincher went on to make his feature-film debut with “Alien 3″ and then establish his own dark identity with the Brad Pitt-starring “Se7en.” His “Social Network,” a film about the founding of Facebook, is one of the fall’s most anticipated releases.

Spike Jonze
“Buddy Holly” begat “John Malkovich.” Jonze won his first Best Direction VMA for Weezer’s iconic “Happy Days”-inspired “Buddy Holly” video in 1995, then made his feature debut a few years later with the trippy “Being John Malkovich,” for which he received an Oscar nomination. Jonze has gone on to direct “Adaptation” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” which grossed over $100 million last year.

Marc Webb
Webb is the man whose job it is to rescue Spider-Man . Following the collapse of the Tobey Maguire-starring franchise earlier this year, Sony turned to Webb to reboot the boy wonder series. Last year, Green Day turned to the director to helm “21 Guns,” a somber take on their hard-charging tune. His feature debut, “(500) Days of Summer,” was nominated for two Golden Globes, including a Best Actor nod for Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Mark Romanek
Romanek has directed videos for everyone from David Bowie to Janet Jackson, earning himself MTV’s Video Vanguard Award in 1997. Then in 2004, thanks to Jay-Z’s “99 Problems,” Romanek won his first Best Direction VMA. By then he’d already directed Robin Williams in the thriller “One Hour Photo.” His latest, “Never Let Me Go,” an adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s creepily elegant novel, starring Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival last week.

Jake Scott
The images of sullen drivers stuck in an endless traffic jam set to the mournful sounds of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” are instantly recognizable to anyone who watched MTV in the mid-’90s. Scott is the guy behind that vid, for which he won Best Direction. He’s also the guy behind Kristen Stewart’s upcoming drama “Welcome to the Rileys,” a troubling take on a runaway-turned-New Orleans stripper.

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
There hardly seems to be a connection between the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 3-D gaming-style video for “Californication” and the Steve Carell-starring dark comedy “Little Miss Sunshine” … except that Dayton and Faris directed them both. The video won them Best Direction in 2000 and the movie was honored with four Oscar nominations in 2007, winning Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Alan Arkin.

Samuel Bayer
Bayer will forever be part of music history for directing Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video. But he didn’t win his first Best Direction VMA until 2005, when he helmed Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” He won his second direction Moonman two year later, thanks to Justin Timberlake and “What Goes Around.” This past spring, he resurrected the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, guiding the horror flick to an impressive $32.9 million opening.

The 27th annual MTV Video Music Awards will be broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday. The party starts with MTV News’ VMA Pre-Show at 8 p.m., followed by the main event at 9 p.m. ET.