The French filmmaker beat out Martin Scorsese for "Hugo" and Woody Allen for "Midnight in Paris." Past nominees David Fincher for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and Alexander Payne for "The Descendants" also were in the running.
The 64th annual Directors Guild of America Awards was held at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland on Saturday.
The award is a good omen for Hazanavicius. Since 1948, there have only been six times that the winner of the DGA Award for feature film directing has not gone on to win the Academy Award for best director.
James Marsh won the film documentary prize for "Project Nim," his chronicle of the triumphs and trials of a chimpanzee that was raised like a human child. It was the latest major Hollywood prize for Marsh, who earned the documentary Academy Award for 2008's "Man on Wire."
Scorsese went zero-for-two at the guild awards. He also had been nominated for the documentary award for "George Harrison: Living in the Material World."
The TV comedy directing award went to Robert B. Weide for an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and the TV drama prize went to Patty Jenkins for the pilot of "The Killing."
The award for TV movie or miniseries went to Jon Cassar for "The Kennedys."
Other television winners were:
- Reality programming: Neil P. DeGroot, "The Biggest Loser."
- Musical variety: Glenn Weiss, "The 65th Annual Tony Awards."
- Daytime serials: William Ludel, "General Hospital."
- Children's programs: Amy Schatz, "A Child's Garden of Poetry."
- Commercials: Noam Murro.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.