'King's Speech' Takes Top PGA Award, Shakes Up Awards Race

 The Weinstein Company

The Producers Guild of America gave its top motion picture honors to The King's Speech at its 22nd annual Producers Guild Awards ceremony Saturday night, a choice that seriously shakes up this awards seasons developing narrative.

While most handicappers bet on both the Weinstein Co.'s Speech and Sony's The Social Network as the two front-runners at the beginning of the season, Social took an early lead last weekend when it best film prizes at both the Broadcast Film Critics Assn.'s Critics Choice Awards and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s Golden Globe Awards.

With Speech's PGA victory, the two front-runners now look like as if they are back to running neck-to-neck as they head toward next month's Oscars, especially since the PGA has a good, though not infallible, track record for foreshadowing Oscar winners. Over the past ten years, the PGA winner went on to win the best picture Oscar 60% of the time.

Officially dubbed the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures, the PGA prize went to Speech producers Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin. "We've just been overwhelmed by the way audiences have responded to this film around the world," Sherman said as he accepted.

At its annual dinner, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and hosted by Judd Apatow, the PGA gave its award for animated feature to Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 3 and producer Darla K. Anderson. "I wouldn't be here without the brilliant directing prowess of Lee Unkrich," she acknowledged.

Producer Lesley Chilcott took home the award for feature documentary for Paramount Vantage's Waiting for 'Superman,' a critical look at America's public school system. Chilcott thanked Paramount, saying, "You treated us like we were a big movie when we really were a little documentary."

On the TV side, ABC's Modern Family earned its first PGA award, the Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television - Comedy. The winning producers were Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Morton, Dan O'Shannon, Jason Winer, Bill Wrubel and Danny Zuker. "When we set out to do this show two years ago," Levitan said, "we didn't think there was any hope of a hit on network television, so we just did the best show we could."

For the third year in a row, AMC's Mad Men took the drama series prize, the Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television - Drama. The award went to Lisa Albert, Scott Hornbacher, Andrew Jacquemetton, Marie Jacquemetton, Blake McCormick, Dwayne Shattuck and Matthew Weiner. In his acceptance, Weiner said that while he led the writing team, it was actually Hornbacher who got the show made.

HBO's Emmy-winning The Pacific racked up further honors as it received the David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television. Its producing team consisted of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg as well as Gary Goetzman, Eugene Kelly, Todd London, Cherylanne Martin, Bruce C. McKenna, Steven Shareshian, Tony To, Tim Van Patten and Graham Yost.

In the category of non-fiction television, the PGA singled out Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch and its producers Thom Beers, Jeff Conroy, Sheila McCormack, Ethan Prochnik and Matt Renner.

And in the category of live entertainment and competition television, Comedy Channel's The Colbert Report won for the fourth year in a row, with the prize going to Meredith Bennett, Stephen T. Colbert, Richard Dahm, Tom Purcell, Allison Silverman and Jon Stewart.

The PGA also used the occasion to hand out a number of honorary awards.

James Cameron received the Milstone Award. He used the moment to thank Twentieth Century Fox, explaining that since Avatar dealt with issues like the environment and saving indigenous peoples, he told the studio he didn't want to make a sequel unless the studio allowed him to continue those themes. Fox not only agreed but contributed to his Avatar Foundation to deal with such issues. "I would challenge all of you tonight to think outside our glamorous bubble and take a stand," Cameron said to the room.

Hanks and Goetzman made a second trip to the podium as they were recognized with the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television. While both thanked HBO, Hanks put in a special word for his fellow actors, saying, "We are here because actors love the craft of acting."

Producer Lawrence Gordon presented Scott Rudin -- who happened to be nominated for both Social and True Grit -- with the David O. Selznick Award in Motion Pictures. "He doesn't have to make super hero movies because he is one," Gordon said. Responded Rudin in his acceptance, "I love this job very much. It is the only thing I've wanted to do since I was eight years old. I've been very happy doing it for 30 years."

In presenting the Visionary Award to Laura Ziskin, director David Fincher noted that after many great movies, Ziskin had turned her focus to fighting cancer, founding Stand Up to Cancer to bring cancer researchers together. "We decided to use the bully pulpit of the media. We are not doctors or scientists," Ziskin explained, "but we felt we could use the bully pulpit to make cancer a top-tier issue in this country. If we continue to stand up, we will defeat this disease."

Sean Penn's social activism was celebrated with the Stanley Kramer Award, presented to him by Army officer  Brian Woolworth, who had spent time with him in Haiti. Penn said Kramer's movies had inspired him and addressing the audience, added, "With your help Haiti will triumph. It's going to be a couple of tough months but stick it out. Be with us."

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, a champion of 3D movies, gave the Vanguard Award to 3D provider RealD. Acknowledging Cameron's own commitment to 3D, he said, "Next to Jim, there's no won who has done more to bring on the 3D revolution" than RealD. The company's CEO Michael V. Lewis said, "Our goal when we started was to making movie-going as lifelike and real as possible."

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