UPDATED WITH WINNERS AND BACKSTAGE REACTIONS: TheProducers Guild Awards at the Beverly Hilton ended with a stunner: The first tie for the top film prize in the PGAs’ 25-year history. Gravity and 12 Years A Slave shared the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures. The award for Gravity catapults the Warner Bros picture squarely into the Best Picture Oscar race, whereas up until now, it seems that 12 Years A Slave and American Hustle were the frontrunners.
If it weren’t for Jeff Robinov, former president of Warner Bros Motion Picture Group, Gravity would not have gotten made. The picture that stars Oscar nominee Sandra Bullock and George Clooney got shoved aside by Universal after Angelina Jolie dropped out. Enter Robinov, who took the project under his wing and was its behind-the-scenes champion. The film from producer, director and co-writer Alfonso Cuaron, now has a worldwide gross of $677M. Accepting the award with producer David Heyman, Cuaron joked that as a producer he found it difficult to work with a “stubborn, uncompromising director. By the way, his accent is an act; he has a perfect British accent, and he lives in London.” Of Bullock, he said: “I don’t care what the director thinks. She is Gravity.
12 Years a Slave, is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, who wrote a book about his life in 1853. Director Steve McQueen had been looking to do a film about slavery when his wife found the book and suggested it. Brad Pitthelped shepherd the film to the big screen and even had a small cameo to help get it some attention. Pitt was the first to speak for the producing team at the podium. “Why they let me lead, I don’t know,” he said. “I got my vote in at the last minute. I voted for Gravity,” he joked. Pitt added that the struggle to make a film is “a colossal pain in the ass” but to see that effort recognized is a “lovely, lovely feeling.” This movie, he said, was a chance “to contribute something to the yearly narrative, to culture, and that is f**king cool.” Director McQueen said some believed that audiences would not embrace the film because of its brutality but that they were proven wrong. “It’s not a black film, it’s not a white film,” he said.
Frozen, released on Thanksgiving Day, is not a surprise to win the Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures. The animated film has been a favorite not only o film critics but also for audiences around the globe, who have pushed it into the stratosphere with a worldwide box office take of $759.1M. The filmmakers have said they tried to keep the pic true to Disney’s classic animation style while working hard to make it look contemporary. Frozen is noteworthy in that it also used several different animation processes. One, called Spaces, allowed animators to deconstruct and rebuild characters; another was Flourish, which made the characters’ movements extremely realistic. Also, using a newly created program called Tonic, Disney animators made the character of Elsa’s hair look lifelike by creating 400,000 CGI threads. Winning the PGA Award,Frozen is nicely positioned going into Oscar season. It competes for the Academy Award with other nominees, Despicable Me 2, The Croods, The Wind Rises andErnest And Celestine. However, the Academy could turn around and give it toHayao Miyazaki, a legend in the world of animation who announced his retirement after this film. The Wind Rises is being released into theaters on February 21, nine days before the Academy Awards.
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures went to We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks – which not only didn’t get an Oscar nom this week, it didn’t even make the shortlist of 15 pics. It’s the story of the now-infamous Australian journalist Julian Assange, the founder and editor of an organization that collected and disseminated whistleblower secrets on the website Wikileaks, starting in 2006. The film bowed to critical praise at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. It also was nominated for a BAFTA this year. Assange is a polarizing figure, called a hero by some and a threat to national security by others. He was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2010 because of his Internet activism. Assange was not available to be interviewed for the documentary, so the fillmakers culled together old interview clips. Assange successfully avoided extradition to Sweden two years ago to face two sexual assault charges when he was granted political asylum by the Ecuadorean government in August 2012.
Here is the full list of winners. Backstage reactions are below:
The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures: (tie) Gravity(Warner Bros. Pictures) Producers: Alfonso Cuarón, David Heyman 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures); Producers: Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen, Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner
The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama: Breaking Bad (AMC); Producers: Melissa Bernstein, Sam Catlin, Bryan Cranston, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Mark Johnson, Stewart Lyons, Michelle MacLaren, George Mastras, Diane Mercer, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures:We Steal Secrets: The Story Of Wikileaks (Focus Features); Producers: Alexis Bloom, Alex Gibney, Marc Shmuger
The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television:Behind the Candelabra (HBO); Producers: Susan Ekins, Gregory Jacobs, Michael Polaire, Jerry Weintraub
The Award for Outstanding Sports Program: SportsCenter (ESPN)
The Award for Outstanding Children’s Program: Sesame Street (PBS)
The Award for Outstanding Digital Series: Wired: What’s Inside (http://video.wired.com/series/what-s-inside)
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN); Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandra Zweig
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:Frozen (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures); Producer: Peter Del Vecho
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television:The Voice (NBC); Producers: Stijn Bakkers, Mark Burnett, John de Mol, Chad Hines, Lee Metzger, Audrey Morrissey, Jim Roush, Kyra Thompson, Nicolle Yaron, Mike Yurchuk, Amanda Zucker
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment and Talk Television: The Colbert Report (Comedy Central); Producers: Meredith Bennett, Stephen T. Colbert, Richard Dahm, Paul Dinello, Barry Julien, Matt Lappin, Emily Lazar, Tanya Michnevich Bracco, Tom Purcell, Jon Stewart
The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy:Modern Family(ABC); Producers: Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Elaine Ko, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Jeffrey Morton, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Chris Smirnoff, Brad Walsh, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker
Onstage and backstage at the PGA Awards:
Presenter Ben Affleck came onstage accompanied by the Batman theme — a cheeky follow-up to Chuck Lorre’s earlier comments about, er, size (not that it matters). “I want to thank someone tonight,” Affleck said. “Evidently I was at the bar briefly [and] there was a guy up onstage who said, ‘You have a big dick.’ The one time it happens I miss it. But thank you very much, whoever you are. I am often compared to Matt Damon but rarely with Michael Fassbender.” Affleck also cracked wise about the unusual circumstance of two winners for outstanding motion picture producing. He said he was told that the tie was “a legitimate mathematical numerical tie — but it was the producers who told me so.”
Accepting the Norman Lear Award, Chuck Lorre launched into a hilarious, insolent and occasionally raunchy monologue. He began by mentioning that he attended the Golden Globes last weekend, also at the Beverly Hitlon: “I was over there, not here,” he said, referring to the fact that he did not make it to the winners’ podium. Last week, he said, he had the honor of “peeing next to Ben Affleck. Yes, I peeked. And yes, Comic-Con — he can play Batman.” But seriously (sort of): Lorre called it “most overwhelming and a little embarrassing” to receive an award named for a man who “reinvented TV comedy and changed our culture. Just like Two And A Half Mendid. That’s why it’s embarrassing.” Lorre offered heartfelt thanks to colleagues and to his mother for her role in creating an “overachieving, twice-divorced, alcoholic comedy writer with colitis. I recovered from the colitis. The rest is still in play.” And with more than a little real emotion, he described his journey from a “broke-ass musician with no prospects” to a comedy writer in order to try to get health insurance for his young family. He ended his riff by saying: “I’ve been paying into the WGA health fund for 27 years … in return, I make enough money to use an out-of-network health provider.”
Fruitvale Stationstar Michael B. Jordan stumbled a little over the word “persevere” in presenting the Stanley Kramer Award to Ryan Coogler’s film. But he persevered — the way he said the filmmaking team did in shooting the true-life drama in “20 days and 20 nights.” ”Nobody slept,” he said. “It was too expensive to sleep.” In accepting the award, which is given to a film that “illuminates provocative social issues,” producer Nina Yang Bongiovi thanked the moviemaking team for including her as “an Asian female producer” and said she hoped that Fruitvale would help further diversity in filmmaking. Producer Forest Whitaker called Oscar Grant — the real-life subject of the film, who was shot to death by a BART police officer five years ago — “a symbol of injustice.”
Accepting the award for Frozen, producer Peter Del Vecho said: “I worked for Disney for almost 20 years. This is the first Disney film to bear the producers’ mark.”
Introducing the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures – which went to Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli — veteran producer David Picker offered heartfelt praise to the creators and maintainers of the Bond franchise through “23 movies over 50 years … with license to kill at the box office.” The latest James Bond, Daniel Craig, joined him in honoring the Bond years. In accepting the award, Wilson praised “our father, Cubby Broccoli” – who, when asked ‘What does a producer do?” replied, “My function is to be responsible for everything.” Wilson added, “When it came to Bond, his advice was, ’It’s OK if you screw it up, but don’t let anybody else screw it up for you.’ “ Wilson went on to describe situations in which Cubby Broccoli had cooked dinner for the entire film crew and said he and Barbara Broccoli would do the same. “In this business where you are only as good as your last film, it’s [wise] to have a backup plan,” he said. Wilson joked that if the next Bond film is not a success, “Barbara and I will be available for all your catering needs.”
As Philomena star Steve Coogan introduced his co-presenter, Philomena Lee — who is portrayed in the film by Judy Dench — joked that Dench could not be present because she was off in India starring in a movie called The Best Erotic Magical Hotel.
Steven Levitan said he was “excited and honored” by Modern Family’s win. But the comedy producer couldn’t resist a joke: “I am honored that I am a member of this guild, especially for having provided me with my third screener of Mud.” He also told the story of observing “the great Sean Penn” smoking on a balcony after receiving an award as Humanitarian of the Year. The ashes fell on some folks below, who shouted up to complain. Levitan quoted Penn as replying: “F**k me? F**k you, f**k you. … I’ll come down there and f**king kill you.” He used the incident as proof that ”sometimes producing means [speaking] from the heart.”
House Of Cards star Kevin Spacey did a lengthy imitation of a Johnny Carson awards show monologue before he presented the top comedy series prize to the producers of Modern Family, which won for the fourth consecutive year. As part of his shtick — including some lame jokes about Miss Golden Globes and her golden globes — he offered that the film Saving Mister Banks should have been called Spanking Mister Hanks. Spacey also listed the many awards ceremonies during this season and suggested that they should all be rolled into one show that would last an entire weekend, by the end of which everyone could be “absolately shitfaced.”
On the red carpet at the PGA Awards:
It’s almost too bad the weather was so good today: The red carpet at the Beverly Hilton Hotel was indoors. Deadline caught up with American Hustleproducers Charles Roven and Richard Suckle, who appeared on the carpet with wife Maia Suckle. “It’s a great year in cinema,” he said. Asked what distinguishes this year’s crop of Oscar nominees, he noted the preponderance of films “inspired by true stories. Ours is fictionalized, but it’s real people … people respond to real stories.” The producer also noted that many of this year’s films are commercial successes (“a producer’s dream”) but added, “First and foremost, this is a filmmaker-driven business.” In a separate conversation, Roven said: “I remember that a few years ago there was a lot of [talk} about filmmaking being segmented, that studios were only making tentpole films. This year we've proven that films can be commercial and still be fantastic." When asked about Hustle's Oscar chances, Suckle said, "I honestly don't think too much about that. It's out of my control. I keep my head down and hope people continue to see our movie." When the Oscar nominations came out on Thursday morning, director David O Russell was fielding questions by phone while ill with some sort of bug. Suckle assured us that he's here tonight and up for the festivities. "David always finds a way to step up his game, with bells and whistles on," Suckle said.
The Wolf Of Wall Street producer Joey McFarland said he was surprised and excited by the Oscar nomination recognition. "To see the names of everybody listed in the nominations was a proud moment for us," he said. McFarland noted that this year's crop of awards films are "movies with a real message," including his. "These are not common, mainstream formulaic movies," he added. His colleague, Wolf producer Riza Aziz agreed, saying that the types of films getting award recognition this season indicate an era of successful partnerships between major studios and independent producers.
Stanley Kramer's widow Karen Kramer and daughter Pat Kramer stopped to talk about this year's Kramer Award honoree, Fruitvale Station. They noted thatFruitvale is among a number of 2013 films that deal with "pressing social issues." She added that the film had been "snubbed" in not receiving an Oscar nom for Best Picture. Does Karen Kramer believe that Lee Daniels' The Butler, tracing the Civil Rights movement, was similarly snubbed? "We love that too," she said. "But that was then. This [Fruitvale Station] is now.”
House of Cards producer Beau Willimon was delighted to find himself on the PGA red carpet. “We had no idea we would be eligible for anything,” he said of the Netflix series. “It means more coming especially from the producers guild because they know how damn hard it is make a show.” He acknowledged thatHouse of Cards is a binge-watcher’s favorite but noted: “It’s a healthy form of addiction. It’s only 13 hours of your life once a year.”
Five TV dramas are vying for the Norman Felton Award: Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, House Of Cards and last year’s winner Homeland.
David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures: Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli
Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television: Chuck Lorre