PGA Awards: 'Birdman' Takes Top Film Award

Birdman Wins PGAs - H 2015
AP Images/Invision

Birdman Wins PGAs - H 2015

'The Lego Movie' and the documentary 'Life Itself' also picked up prizes.

The fantastical drama Birdman, starring Michael Keatonflew to new heights Saturday evening when it won the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures at the 26th Producer’s Guild Awards held Saturday Night  at the Hyatt Regent Century Plaza.

The award positions Birdman as the current front runner for best picture heading into the Academy Awards.The last seven movies to win the PGA award have gone on to take the Oscar, and over the years nearly  three quarters of the PGA winners have also won the Academy Award. Since many had been predicting a PGA win for BoyhoodBirdman's victory was regarded as a surprise. 

Alejandro G. Iñárritu — who directed the film and who was honored for his role as producer along with John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole — accepted for Birdman “on behalf of all of us whose only ambition was to this risky and experimental kind of exploration of cinematic language through the mind of an artist.” The director said the movie, released by Fox Searchlight, would not have been possible without Keaton, who he said “gave us that honesty he played with and represented all of us.”

Iñárritu also expressed his joy at being part of the group of films that were nominated this year: “All these films differently have a believable voice and would not exist if there were not an expression behind them. And only the people who make it could have made it and they were not designed as products but as real expressions of human emotions.”

In something of a rebuke to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciencs, the PGA members gave awards to two other films that were snubbed by the Academy, which didn't nominate them for Oscars.

The award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Picture went to Steve JamesGarrett Basch and Zak Piper for Life Itself, the documentary about the late film critic Roger Ebert. And The Lego Movie, produced by Dan Lin, won for outstanding producer of an animated theatrical motion picture.

Chaz Ebert, who accepted the documentary prize with James, who also directed the film, said of her late husband: “He said movies really are the key to developing empathy and passion and changing people and changing the world.”

Lin, in accepting for Warner Bros.' The Lego Movie, said, “the real win has been the friends I’ve made along the way.”

Breaking Bad continued its winning streak when it was honored with the Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama; and the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black won the Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy.

Star Bryan Cranston accepted the award for Breaking Bad, saying, "I have been asked if we knew this show was going to be a big hit while we were making it? And of course we did not.…You only know your show is a big hit when all of your location signs are stolen.” Cranston, who thanked the show's creator executive producer Vince Gilligan for writing the character he played, noted Breaking Bad was turned down by several networks before AMC said yes. “Their courage was beyond words.”

FX's Fargo was honored with the David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television; and Cosmos was the winner as producer of non-fiction television.

NBC’s The Voice scored the award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television. Producer Mark Burnett thanked the Producer’s Guild for protecting the work of producers, saying, “A lot of people in this town put their names on a project who have nothing to do with that product, but these people [standing with him on stage] are real producers.”

In its first year since Jay Leno's departure, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon won for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television.

The Award for Outstanding Sports Program went to Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, which is on HBO; and PBS' Sesame Street won the Award for Outstanding Children’s Program.  Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, starring Jerry Seinfeld, was given the Award for Outstanding Digital Series.

A number of honorary awards also were presented throughout the program.

Prolific show creator Shonda Rhimes presented the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television to producer Mark Gordon. Rhimes recalled meeting with Gordon when she first came to Hollywood, observing that she was “a shy black woman and he wasn’t,” but that he believed in her and gave her a chance. “It was the most important meeting of my career – and I think when all the checks are cashed of his, too," she said, calling Gordon “my dragon always ready to fly out and breathe fire at anybody who tries to stop me from doing my vision.”

Said Gordon in response: “She’s right, no Shonda, no Mark up here tonight.”

Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence presented the Milestone Award to Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lionsgate. Feltheimer thanked executive and former MGM head Harry Sloan for giving him his first job as an executive at New World and remaining a mentor to him. He also expressed thanks to producer Peter Guber, who hired him to head TV at Sony, because he  “taught me when people come to you with a problem, listen, help them, but make sure they leave with the problem.” Feltheimer noted it takes a lot of people to make a movie or TV show: “Part of the real power of an executive is to know when to stand aside and let talented writers, directors and actors do what they do so well.”

Brad Pitt and his partners at Plan B — Dede Gardner, and Jeremy Kleiner — were honored with the Visionary Award, which was presented by 92-year-old producer Norman Lear. Pitt recalled growing up watching Lear’s shows like All In the Family: “I grew up in the Bible Belt, and not just the Bible Belt but on the buckle of the Bible Belt, and I can’t say enough about the effect on me of Norman Lear.” In concluding his remarks, Pitt added, “If anyone out there can tell us how to make a visionary film and not cut our price, it would be appreciated.”

Edward Norton presented the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures to producer Gale AnneHurd. “I had the pleasures of working with her on The Incredible Hulk,” said Norton. “She was the only person smiling throughout that production.” Norton called Hurd a “role model” for everyone in the industry but especially for “young women she has helped succeed in this industry.”

Hurd said “the past five years have been the best of her life” because she has been producing The Walking Dead. She also used her time at the podium to issue a warning that the industry is at a crossroads because a lot of people believe “film product should be free” on the Internet. “It’s up to all of us to make them aware of the work of this industry,” she said, “and to spread our message – intellectual property should be protected. The very fate of our business is at stake.”

Sharon Stone presented the Stanley Kramer Award to the HBO film about the AIDS crisis The Normal Heart. She observed that Heart's writer Larry Kramer is no relation to the late producer after whom the award is named. “They have no physical relationship,” Stone said, “but both Larry and Stanley are voices that refused to bestilled.”

Matt Bomer, a member of the cast of The Normal Heart, accepted, and continued the theme, saying, “The Kramer’s – Larry and Stanley – use their craft to promote justice, tolerance and understanding.” He pointed out it took 30 years to get the telefilm version of The Normal Heart made and thanked HBO for being the network that finally did it.

Tim Wen and Chidi Onyejuruwa won the Make Your Mark short film competition for their film Symphony of Senses. A portion of the winning short will be featured in a Cadillac advertisement during the Oscars ceremony.

The 2015 PGA Awards co-chairs were producers Todd Black and Ryan Murphy.

See more PGA Awards Red Carpet Arrivals

The full list of nominees, with winners highlighted, is below.

The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures:

Birdman (Fox Searchlight Pictures) — WINNER Read the review  |  Watch the trailer  |  Latest news
Producers: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, James W. Skotchdopole

American Sniper (Warner Bros. Pictures) Read the review | Watch the trailer | Latest news
Producers: Bradley Cooper, p.g.a., Clint Eastwood, p.g.a., Andrew Lazar, p.g.a., Robert Lorenz, p.g.a., Peter Morgan, p.g.a.
Boyhood (IFC Films) Read the review  |  Watch the trailer  |  Latest news
Producers: Richard Linklater, p.g.a., Cathleen Sutherland, p.g.a.
Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics) Read the review  |  Watch the trailer  |  Latest news
Producers:  Megan Ellison, p.g.a., Jon Kilik, p.g.a., Bennett Miller, p.g.a.
Gone Girl (20th Century Fox) Read the review  |  Watch the trailer  |  Latest news
Producer: Ceán Chaffin, p.g.a.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight Pictures) Read the review  |  Watch the trailer  |  Latest news
Producers: Wes Anderson & Scott Rudin, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales
The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company) Read the review  |  Watch the trailer  |  Latest news
Producers: Nora Grossman, p.g.a., Ido Ostrowsky, p.g.a., Teddy Schwarzman, p.g.a.
Nightcrawler (Open Road Films) Read the review | Watch the trailer | Latest news
Producers: Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy
The Theory of Everything (Focus Features) Read the review | Watch the trailer | Latest news
Producers: Tim Bevan & Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten
Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics) Read the review  |  Watch the trailer  |  Latest news
Producers: Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster

The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama:
Breaking Bad (AMC) — WINNER

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 (PBS)
Producers: Julian Fellowes, Nigel Marchant, Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge
Game Of Thrones (HBO)
Producers: David Benioff, Bernadette Caulfield, Frank Doelger, Chris Newman, Greg Spence, Carolyn Strauss, D.B. Weiss
House Of Cards (Netflix)
Producers: Dana Brunetti, Joshua Donen, David Fincher, David Manson, Iain Paterson, Eric Roth, Kevin Spacey, Beau Willimon
True Detective (HBO)
Producers: Richard Brown, Carol Cuddy, Steve Golin, Woody Harrelson, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Matthew McConaughey, Nic Pizzolatto, Scott Stephens

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures:
Life Itself (Magnolia Pictures) — WINNER
Producers: Garrett Basch, Steve James, Zak Piper

The Green Prince (Music Box Films)
Producers: John Battsek, Simon Chinn, Nadav Schirman
Merchants of Doubt (Sony Pictures Classics)
Producers: Robert Kenner, Melissa Robledo
Particle Fever (Abramorama/BOND 360)
Producers: David E. Kaplan, Mark A. Levinson, Andrea Miller, Carla Solomon
Virunga (Netflix)
Producers: Joanna Natasegara, Orlando von Einsiedel

See more Golden Globes Red Carpet Arrivals

The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Longform Television:
The longform television category encompasses both movies of the week and miniseries.

Fargo (FX) — WINNER
Producers: Adam Bernstein, John Cameron, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Michael Frislev, Noah Hawley, Warren Littlefield, Chad Oakes, Kim Todd

The Normal Heart (HBO)
Producers: Jason Blum, Dante Di Loreto, Scott Ferguson, Dede Gardner, Alexis Martin Woodall, Ryan Murphy, Brad Pitt, Mark Ruffalo

American Horror Story: Freak Show (FX)
Producers: Brad Buecker, Dante Di Loreto, Brad Falchuk, Joseph Incaprera, Alexis Martin Woodall, Tim Minear, Ryan Murphy, Jennifer Salt, James Wong
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (PBS)
Producers:  To Be Determined
Sherlock (PBS)
Producers: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, Beryl Vertue, Sue Vertue

The Award for Outstanding Sports Program:
Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel (HBO) — WINNER

24/7 (HBO)
Hard Knocks: Training Camp With The Atlanta Falcons (HBO)
Hard Knocks: Training Camp With The Cincinnati Bengals (HBO)
Inside: U.S. Soccer's March To Brazil (ESPN)
The Award for Outstanding Children’s Program:

Sesame Street (PBS) — WINNER

Dora The Explorer (Nickelodeon)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nickelodeon)
Toy Story OF TERROR! (ABC)
Wynton Marsalis: A YoungArts Masterclass (HBO)
The Award for Outstanding Digital Series:

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee — WINNER

30 For 30 Shorts
COSMOS: A National Geographic Deeper Dive
Epic Rap Battles Of History
Video Game High School Season 3

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Nonfiction Television:

COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey (FOX/NatGeo) — WINNER
Producers: Brannon Braga, Mitchell Cannold, Jason Clark, Ann Druyan, Livia Hanich, Steve Holtzman, Seth MacFarlane

30 For 30 (ESPN)
Producers: Andy Billman, John Dahl, Erin Leyden, Connor Schell, Bill Simmons
American Masters (PBS)
Producers: Susan Lacy, Julie Sacks, Junko Tsunashima
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN)
Producers:  Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandra Zweig
Shark Tank (ABC)
Producers: Becky Blitz, Mark Burnett, Bill Gaudsmith, Phil Gurin, Yun Lingner, Clay Newbill, Jim Roush, Laura Roush, Max Swedlow

The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy:

Orange Is The New Black (Netflix) — WINNER
Producers: Mark A. Burley, Sara Hess, Jenji Kohan, Gary Lennon, Neri Tannenbaum, Michael Trim, Lisa I. Vinnecour

The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Producers: Faye Oshima Belyeu, Chuck Lorre, Steve Molaro, Bill Prady
Louie (FX)
Producers: Pamela Adlon, Dave Becky, M. Blair Breard, Louis C.K., Vernon Chatman, Adam Escott, Steven Wright
Modern Family (ABC)
Producers: Paul Corrigan, Megan Ganz, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Elaine Ko, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Morton, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Chris Smirnoff, Brad Walsh, Bill Wrubel, Sally Young, Danny Zuker
Veep (HBO)
Producers: Chris Addison, Simon Blackwell, Christopher Godsick, Armando Iannucci, Stephanie Laing, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Frank Rich, Tony Roche

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television:

The Voice (NBC) — WINNER
Producers: Stijn Bakkers, Mark Burnett, John De Mol, Chad Hines, Lee Metzger, Audrey Morrissey, Jim Roush, Kyra Thompson, Mike Yurchuk, Amanda Zucker
The Amazing Race (CBS)
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Elise Doganieri, Jonathan Littman, Bertram van Munster, Mark Vertullo
Dancing With The Stars (ABC)
Producers: Ashley Edens Shaffer, Conrad Green, Joe Sungkur
Project Runway (Lifetime)
Producers: Jane Cha Cutler, Desiree Gruber, Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum, Jonathan Murray, Sara Rea, Teri Weideman
Top Chef (Bravo)
Producers: Doneen Arquines, Daniel Cutforth, Casey Kriley, Jane Lipsitz, Hillary Olsen, Erica Ross, Tara Siener, Shealan Spencer

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television:
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC) — WINNER
Producers: Rob Crabbe, Jamie Granet Bederman, Katie Hockmeyer, Jim Juvonen, Josh Lieb, Brian McDonald, Lorne Michaels, Gavin Purcell 

The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
Producers: Meredith Bennett, Tanya Michnevich Bracco, Stephen Colbert, Richard Dahm, Paul Dinello, Barry Julien, Matt Lappin, Emily Lazar, Tom Purcell, Jon Stewart
Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC)
Producers: David Craig, Ken Crosby, Doug DeLuca, Gary Greenberg, Erin Irwin, Jimmy Kimmel, Jill Leiderman, Molly McNearney, Tony Romero, Jason Schrift, Jennifer Sharron, Seth Weidner, Josh Weintraub
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
Producers: Tim Carvell, John Oliver, Liz Stanton
Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO)
Producers: Scott Carter, Sheila Griffiths, Marc Gurvitz, Dean Johnsen, Bill Maher, Billy Martin, Matt Wood

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:

The LEGO Movie (Warner Bros. Pictures) — WINNER
Producer: Dan Lin

Big Hero 6 (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Producer: Roy Conli, p.g.a.
The Book of Life (20th Century Fox)
Producers: Brad Booker, p.g.a., Guillermo del Toro, p.g.a.
The Boxtrolls (Focus Features)
Producers: David Bleiman Ichioka, p.g.a., Travis Knight, p.g.a.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (20th Century Fox)
Producer: Bonnie Arnold, p.g.a.