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The Shape of Water, director Guillermo del Toro’s romantic fantasy, took the top prize Saturday night at the 29th annual Producers Guild Awards, where it received the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures. It concluded a ceremony in which the need to give opportunities and voice to women and people of color emerged as a common theme.
Del Toro, who produced the Fox Searchlight film along with J. Miles Dale, was not present because he was in Mexico by the side of his ailing father, but he tweeted, “I want to thank the PGA for giving us this immense distinction.” Accepting onstage at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Dale noted that the film’s screenplay originally carried the subtitle “A Fairy Tale for Troubled Times,” and he said, “This was before the election. It is set in 1962, but it’s really about the world today.”
But while Shape of Water walked away with the night’s final honor, within the ballroom itself, the applause appeared to be even louder for one of the other film nominees — Jordan Peele’s racially charged horror movie Get Out, which earlier in the evening received the Stanley Kramer Award, which honors a production “whose achievement or contribution illuminates and raises public awareness of important social issues.”
Norman Lear, who said he’d seen the genre-bending film three times, presented the award to Peele and praised the pic for “the surgical way it takes on the racist fear that runs riot in America today.” Acknowledging a debt to Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Peele said that the movie began when he asked the question, “What if we did a horror version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?,” as he went on to explain that the movie’s term “the sunken place” refers to “the system that silences the voices of black people, of women, of all other minorities. I feel we are living in the sunken place right now” as he specifically called out President Donald Trump for racist pronouncements.
Lear was lauded, in turn, by prolific TV creator Ryan Murphy later in the ceremony, when Gwyneth Paltrow presented him with the Norman Lear Achievement in Television Award. Murphy recounted that when he was trying to break into the business and, feeling like an outsider, felt discouraged, he received a call from Lear, who encouraged him by saying, “Keep doing what you’re doing. I see you. Don’t give up.” Murphy said that has become a mantra for him as he’s worked to give opportunities and voice to gay people, women and other outsiders both onscreen and behind the camera — and to that end, he said that 60 percent of all the directing slots on his TV shows are now filled by women and his new series Pose features the largest transgender cast in TV. Murphy testified, “I believe, as I know Norman does, strongly in the power of television, because I believe the following — if you see yourself, and some part of your human experience reflected back at yourself, you will not feel alone.”
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who was presented with the guild’s Visionary Award by Reese Witherspoon, exhorted the audience “not to think of diversity as a good thing to do, think of it as an absolute must, something that must be done.” She also took the time to pay tribute to producer Allison Shearmur, who died Friday at the age of 54, praising her for the way she used her position to provide opportunities to others. Shearmur was also remembered fondly by Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley as she accepted the guild’s Milestone Award.
Rounding out the honorees, Charles Roven, whose credits include The Dark Knight and Wonder Woman, was presented with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures by Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins. He drew a laugh when he began, “I’ve had many great experiences in this room, starting with my bar mitzvah. No, it’s true, I literally became a man on this stage.”
At the beginning of the evening, PGA presidents Gary Lucchesi and Lori McCreary, as they spoke of the guild’s new anti-sexual harassment guidelines, announced that Roven is in discussion with DC Films to have Wonder Woman 2 become the first international film to adopt the guidelines.
Among the night’s other winners, The Handmaid’s Tale won the award for outstanding episodic TV drama, while The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was named best episodic comedy and Black Mirror took best longform television honors.
Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath claimed the award for outstanding producer of non-fiction television. During her acceptance, Remini, an outspoken critic of Scientology, called Scientology “an organization that uses its power and money to try to intimidate and silence its critics, but as evidence tonight, they have not succeeded.”
Pixar’s Coco took the prize for animated feature, while Brett Morgen’s Jane, a portrait of primatologist Jane Goodall, was named best documentary.
A list of winners follows.
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