Warner Bros.' 'Gravity,' FX's 'American Horror Story' Top Publicist Guild Awards

Jerry Lewis
Jerry Lewis
 Getty Images

The Warner Bros. publicity team that worked on Gravity and the FX team behind American Horror Story took top honors at the annual Publicist Guild Awards in Beverly Hills on Friday.

A highlight of the annual luncheon on the Friday before the Oscars was the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to actor, comedian, writer, producer and director Jerry Lewis by comedienne Carol Burnett.

Burnett said Lewis had inspired her love of comedy when she first saw him on the big screen as a teenager while attending Hollywood High School in 1949 in the movie My Friend Irma, which also starred his then-partner Dean Martin. She also praised Lewis for his work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, helping raise over $2.6 billion.

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“For someone who has been quite open about feelings for the press, to get anything from them is a miracle,” said Lewis, now 87, in his acceptance. “But I really know the importance of what you guys do. I respect that.”

Lewis then told a story about taking the New York City subway recently and seeing a young man with multi-colored hair. The young man asked him, “What’s the matter old man? Haven’t you ever done anything unusual in your life?” recalled Lewis, who quipped in return that “20 years ago I had sex with a parrot and I thought you were my son.”

Lewis concluded by saying he was humbled by receiving the award, adding: “Humility is not often associate with my name.”

Shailene Woodley and Theo James, two of the stars of the upcoming movie Divergent from Lionsgate, presented the Motion Picture Showmanship Award to Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger, co-chairmen of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group which is releasing their film on March 21. While at Summit and then Lionsgate, the movies they were involved with included Twilight and The Hunger Games, helping make it the first independent movie distributor to gross over $1 billion in a single year.

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Friedman, who has had a long career at Paramount and Warner Bros. before Summit and Lionsgate, recalled that he began as a publicist. He noted things have changed greatly with the advent of digital and social media but said when a new movie comes along he still thinks like a publicist and looks first at how to “communicate in the most impactful way.”

Wachsberger, whose background is in international movie distribution, said that he knows publicity is, “a combination of art and science and guess work,” adding, “so it’s a lot like what we do when we make movies.”

Shonda Rhimes, creator, writer and producer of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and Private Lives, was presented the Television Showmanship Award by Scandal star Tony Goldwyn

Rhimes said she recognizes the power of publicity but it took her a long time to come to that realization. She singled out her publicist Chris Diorio for teaching her that lesson. “I’m like a turtle in a shell,” said Rhimes. “I’m a writer. Writers don’t like to be seen or talked to…We like to write words for others to say.” She said Diorio taught her that, “if I don’t poke my head out of my sell…People will think all I am is my shell.”

Linda Bell Blue, who until recently had been the executive producer of Entertainment Tonight for the last two decades, was presented the President’s Award, which is only given in years there is a worthy recipient. It was presented by Steven Poster, president of the Publicists of the International Cinematographers Guild.

Blue, now president of the Entertainment Tonight Studios, paid tribute to the publicists who have worked with her and the show over the years in telling the stories of celebrities and bringing many stars on the program. “The people in this room have the hardest jobs in Hollywood,” said Blue, adding, “Some days we don’t see eye to eye but overall we have accomplished a great deal.”

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Josh Gad, who does the voice of Olaf in Frozen, presented a plaque commemorating the 90th anniversary of Walt Disney Animation Studios to Disney executive vp Andrew Millstein. After noting the success of Frozen, now one of the biggest grossing animated movies of all time, he said the story came together after more than half a century of development of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, dating back to the era of Walt Disney.

Reflecting on the recent renaissance of Disney animation, Millstein said: “Disney animation is a studio founded by artists and again being led by artists.”

Jacqueline Bisset presented the Les Mason Award, the highest honor the publicists give to a publicist, to Michael Singer, head of publicity for Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Television.

Bisset, who seemed tongue tied when she won an award at the Golden Globes in January, began her presentation by promising, “Nothing will be left to chance,” adding: “I don’t think anyone wants to hear me give another long speech.”

Singer singled out Julian Myers, the veteran publicist who died last month, as a mentor and “constant inspiration.”

Myers was also mentioned in a memorial segment and was singled out by Theo Kingma, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, for helping open the doors for international journalists in Hollywood more than six decades ago.

Kingma made his comments while presenting the International Media Award to Philip Berk, another former HFPA president.

There were also multiple mentions during the afternoon program of Sarah Elizabeth Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant who was killed last week while working on the Gregg Allman biopic, Midnight Rider, which was shooting a train sequence without the proper permits.

Other winners included: Peter Fountain was honored with the Excellence in Still Photography for Motion Pictures Award for his work on 12 Years A Slave; Michael Yarish won the award for Television Still Photography; Scott Mantz Access Hollywood received the Press Award;

The publicists from Warner Bros. who worked on the winning campaign for Gravity were Jade Alex, Sharon Black, Cecilia Calderon, Mark Capaldi, Deva Cervera, Julie Cole, Melissa Crow, Justine Gamez, Mary Hunter, Kimberly Lerner, Jesse Mesa, Maureen O’Malley, Paulette Osorio, Emily Patt, Orna Pickens, Susan Shapiro, Gina Soliz and Lisa Stone.

The publicist on the winning TV campaign were was Mathew Mitchell.

Voiceover artist Sirena Irwin (SpongeBob SquarePants), who also plays Lucille Ball on stage, acted as the voice of the guild for the program, which was opened by Henri Bollinger, the longtime chairman of the guild’s awards committee.

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