PGA Awards: 'Gravity,' '12 Years a Slave' Win Guild's Top Prize in Unprecedented Tie
In a first, the Producers Guild of America bestowed its top prize on two films at its awards ceremony Sunday night.
Gravity and 12 Years a Slave both won the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for outstanding producer of theatrical motion pictures at the show, which took place at the Beverly Hilton. Frozen won in the animated movie category.
Accepting for Gravity, director and producer Alfonso Cuaron delivered a tongue-in-cheek speech about the difficult director he and fellow producer David Heyman, best known for producing the Harry Potter franchise for Warner Bros., had to work with.
"David and I started this project four and a half years ago," Cuaron said. "We received a call from the director saying that he had a small movie, only two characters, we could make in one year or a year and a half. We were skeptical and we insisted on tests. Now that we're between producers, I think we can be frank: The director was difficult. He was stubborn and uncompromising. Another thing, just think of his accent as an act. He really has a British accent. Yeah, he was rude. The director won't talk to me. He kicked me out of the set."
Cuaron also said he wanted to share the award with the other people who made the film possible, including stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney and his co-screenwriter, his son Jonas.
To their partners and collaborators at Warner Bros., Cuaron said, "You really took a leap of faith with us."
Producer Brad Pitt and director-producer Steve McQueen accepted 12 Years a Slave's award. Pitt talked about the struggle involved in getting a project to the big screen and the rewarding feeling when all of that effort pays off.
"As a producer, I spend years trying to get a script together for a project [I] believe in," Pitt said. "The concept has to attract money. I try to figure out actors' schedules. It's a colossal pain in the ass. But when we do prevail and get a story together, when we get all the elements together and we clear the way for a director to believe in, it is a lovely, lovely feeling, and beyond that, we get to contribute something to the yearly narrative. We contribute something to culture, and that's f---ing cool."
Pitt also thanked the cast, the city of New Orleans, partners Bill Pohlad of River Road and New Regency's Brad Weston and Arnon Milchan, everyone at Fox Searchlight and McQueen, who then took the microphone.
McQueen thanked those who supported their film, noting that there were "a lot of people who turned their backs on us." And he said that the film's box-office success, despite its brutal scenes, shows the importance of the movie's story.
PHOTOS: Exclusive Portraits of '12 Years a Slave' Star-Producer Brad Pitt and His Cast
"When the film first came out in Telluride and Toronto, some people were saying this was a brutal film, that no one would go and see it," McQueen explained. "Box office here, in the United States, and the U.K. has proven differently. It just shows you what happens when people come together to make something work, particularly about this story, a story of America. It's not a black film. It's not a white film. It's a story of America. It's the story of a man called Solomon Northup, who survived the horrors of slavery for 12 years."
Meanwhile, in the TV categories, AMC's Breaking Bad won for best episodic drama, while ABC's Modern Family scored the win for best episodic comedy. HBO's Behind the Candelabra won in the longform category.
Breaking Bad's executive producer Michelle MacLaren thanked creator Vince Gilligan, whom she indicated was responsible for the show's success, and called him their "fearless leader."
MacLaren thanked him "not only for making us part of your brilliant creation but also for your generous sense of collaboration and inspiring every member of our cast and crew, making this entire experience simply magical."
A bevy of top industry names also took the stage to present and receive the PGA's annual special honors.
Singer Pharrell Williams presented the Visionary Award to Chris Meledandri of Illumination Entertainment, praising his "singular vision," first at 20th Century Fox as an executive, and then in partnership with Universal Studios after he formed his own company and produced Despicable Me.
Meledandri said he accepted the honor "with gratitude, but also with a bit of hesitation, because I think of myself as a relentless neurotic who has finally matured enough to have gained some simple wisdom."
"If I do have a talent," added Meledandri, "it's identifying truly talented people, convincing them to work with me and to create aspiring stories that allow them to unlock their highest potential."
Meledandri said he wanted to use the award to honor the memory of his first boss, the late producer Dan Melnick: "Dan was a producer from a bygone era. … He gave me that rare orientation for a producer that covers storytelling, production and marketing in equal parts. His training guides me to this very day."
Producer David Picker presented the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Motion Pictures to Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the producers of the James Bond movies. He described how half a century ago he first read the Ian Fleming Bond novels and tried to get the rights, but the author initially refused. Fleming finally sold those rights to Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who started the franchise that has now been passed on to Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, whom Picker called "two extraordinary people" who have succeeded through "passion and determination never to compromise."
"They have guided and pushed their father's legacy and this cinematic phenomenon beyond all expectations," added Picker.
Wilson said they have learned a valuable lesson from the great producers who came before them: that the producer has to do it all. He said Cubby Broccoli taught them "not to fear failure but to learn from it. When it came to James Bond, he said, 'it's okay if you screw it up, but don't let anybody screw it up for you.'
"It was from Cubby we learned it's a producer's job to inspire the cast and crew," Wilson added, "and to act as a sounding board for the director … and to be their advocate with the studio."
Actor Michael B. Jordan presented the Stanley Kramer Award to producers Nina Yang Bongiovi and Forest Whitaker for the movie Fruitvale Station. He said the film's important story was shot in 20 days and 20 nights, "in which nobody slept. It was too expensive to sleep -- yeah, independent film."
"We're so grateful we've come this far and had so much light shed on the subject of social injustice in our country," said Bongiovi in her acceptance speech.
"The loss of [the film's subject] Oscar Grant was a tragedy," said Whitaker, adding: "Oscar is a symbol for so many social injustices. … Our hope was this would create a human experience that would unite us."
When Mike & Molly star Billy Gardell presented the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television to producer Chuck Lorre, who currently has four shows on network TV (besides Mike & Molly, he produces Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory and Mom, all CBS shows), Lorre said it was a particular honor because of whom the award was named after.
"To get an award with Norman Lear's name on it is both overwhelming and a little embarrassing," said Lorre. "He's the man who reinvented TV comedy, the man who proved you can be both funny and socially relevant. Shows like All in the Family, Maude, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons literally changed our culture for the better."
Then with a smirk he added: "Just like Two and a Half Men did."
Lorre recalled his start in Hollywood as a musician. When that wasn't working out, he was pained because he couldn't afford health insurance for his kids, so he turned to comedy writing, which has made him both rich and famous.
"In my saner moments, I try to stay grateful," said Lorre. "I am one of the lucky ones. I get to work in TV; I get to work with great people; I get to laugh. I get to make other people laugh, and in return, I make enough money to use an out-of-network health care provider."
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch presented the Vanguard Award to Joe Letteri and Peter Jackson for their work with WETA, the New Zealand special and visual effects studio behind the visuals in such movies as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit and Man of Steel.
"It's fantastic to receive this award from you, the Producers Guild, because you are the core of what we do here," said Letteri. "You lead the charge on getting these kind of films made, often fearlessly."
Jackson wasn't able to attend in person but sent a video thank-you to the guild, in which he said that while the technology is important, it doesn't come to life without the work of the actors who provide the voice and spirit of the characters.
"We are reaching the point," added Jackson, "where just about anything you as a filmmaker can imagine can be onscreen. … At this point the question is how to use this."
Robert Downey Jr. presented the Milestone Award to Disney CEO Robert Iger, whom Downey said he first assumed was just a business guy. However, he later learned that Iger believes "if you're not making mistakes, you're not doing anything."
"Anyone who knows him," added Downey, "agrees he is not driven by business deals. … He is driven by creative instincts."
Iger thanked Downey, saying the actor is a "true superhero, because every time he puts on that [Iron Man] suit, Disney's stock price gets lifted miraculously."
Iger praised the late Walt Disney as a true innovator, but then joked he will now be "remembered as the guy Tom Hanks played in Saving Mr. Banks."
Iger said Disney is a company that "has creativity all over it and value being created in so many different ways all over the world. … The most valuable [thing] is creativity."
"We're all drawn to this business because we can't imagine doing anything else," said Iger. "Whatever success we achieve, we can't do it alone. This [award] belongs to my colleagues at Disney. But if you don't mind, I will take this to my house."
A complete list of the winners is below (winners' names are in red and marked with an asterisk).
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 & Dede Gardner
American Hustle (Columbia Pictures)
Producers: Megan Ellison, Jon Gordon, Charles Roven, Richard Suckle
Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics)
Producers: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum
Captain Phillips (Columbia Pictures)
Producers: Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin
Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)
Producers: Robbie Brenner, Rachel Winter
Her (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Producers: Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, Vincent Landay
Nebraska (Paramount Pictures)
Producers: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa
Saving Mr. Banks (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Producers: Ian Collie, Alison Owen, Philip Steuer1
Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount Pictures)
Producers: Riza Aziz, Emma Koskoff, Joey McFarland
Outstanding Producer of Documentary Motion Pictures:
*We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
A Place at the Table
Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story
Life According to Sam
Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington
Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:
*Frozen (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Producer: Peter Del Vecho
The Croods (DreamWorks Animation)
Producers: Kristine Belson, Jane Hartwell
Despicable Me 2 (Universal Pictures)
Producers: Janet Healy, Chris Meledandri
Epic (Twentieth Century Fox)
Producers: Jerry Davis, Lori Forte
Monsters University (Pixar Animation)
Producer: Kori Rae
David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Longform Television (TV Movies and Miniseries):
*Behind the Candelabra (HBO)
Producers: Susan Ekins, Gregory Jacobs, Michael Polaire, Jerry Weintraub
American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)
Producers: Brad Buecker, Dante Di Loreto, Brad Falchuk, Alexis Martin Woodall, Ryan Murphy, Chip Vucelich
Killing Kennedy (National Geographic Channel)
Producers: Mary Lisio, Larry Rapaport, Ridley Scott, Teri Weinberg, David W. Zucker
Phil Spector (HBO)
Producers: Michael Hausman, Barry Levinson
Top of the Lake (Sundance Channel)
Producers: Philippa Campbell, Jane Campion, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman
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
Downton Abbey (ITV - United Kingdom; PBS - United States)
Producers: Julian Fellowes, Nigel Marchant, Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge
Game of Thrones (HBO)
Producers: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Frank Doelger, Bernadette Caulfield, Christopher Newman, Greg Spence
Producers: Alex Gansa, Michael Cuesta, Alexander Cary, Henry Bromell, Howard Gordon, Chip Johannessen, Meredith Stiehm, Michael Klick
House of Cards (Netflix)
Producers: Karyn McCarthy, Beau Willimon, John Melfi, Kevin Spacey, Joshua Donen, Eric Roth, David Fincher
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
30 Rock (NBC)
Producers: Jack Burditt, Robert Carlock, Luke Del Tredici , Tina Fey, Matt Hubbard , Marci Klein, Jerry Kupfer , Colleen McGuinness, Lorne Michaels, David Miner, Dylan Morgan , Jeff Richmond , Josh Siegal, Tracey Wigfield
Arrested Development (Netflix) – Pending Eligibility
Big Bang Theory, The (CBS)
Producers: Bill Prady, Chucke Lorre, Steve Molaro, Faye Oshima Belyeu
Producers: Simon Blackwell, Christopher Godsick, Armando Iannucci, Stephanie Laing, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Frank Rich, Tony Roche
Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television:
*Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN)
Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandra Zweig
30 for 30 (ESPN) – Pending Eligibility
Duck Dynasty (A&E) – Pending Eligibility
Inside The Actors Studio (Bravo)
Producers: James Lipton, Shawn Tesser, Jeff Wurtz
Shark Tank (ABC) – Pending Eligibility
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 Amazing Race (CBS)
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Elise Doganieri, Jonathan Littman, Bertram van Munster, Mark A. Vertullo
Dancing With The Stars (ABC)
Producers: Ashley Edens-Shaffer, Conrad Green, Joe Sungkur
Project Runway (Lifetime) – Pending Eligibility
Top Chef (Bravo)
Producers: Daniel Cutforth, Nan Strait, Jane Lipsitz, Casey Kriley, Tom Colicchio, Andrew Wallace, Erica Ross
Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television:
*Colbert Report, The (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
Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC) – Pending Eligibility
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC)
Producers: Michael Shoemaker, Lorne Michaels, Gavin Purcell, Hillary Hunn
Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)
Producers: Scott Carter, Sheila Griffiths, Marc Gurvitz, Dean Johnsen, Bill Maher, Billy Martin, Matt Wood
Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Producers: Ken Aymong, Erin Doyle, Steve Higgins, Erik Kenward, Lorne Michaels, Lindsay Shookus
Outstanding Sports Program:
Hard Knocks (HBO)
Monday Night Football (ESPN)
Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel (HBO)
Outstanding Children's Program:
*Sesame Street (Sprout)
Dora the Explorer (Nickelodeon)
Phineas and Ferb (Disney Channel)
SpongeBob Squarepants (Nickelodeon)
Outstanding Digital Series:
*Wired: What's Inside
Epic Rap Battles of History
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Video Game High School