Publicists Awards: 'Deadpool' Hailed as Best PR Campaign, Nanci Ryder Gets Massive Ovation

Denzel Washington, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ryan Murphy and SAG Awards publicist Rosalind Jarrett Sepulveda also received honors.
Mathew Imaging/WireImage
Nanci Ryder (left) and Renee Zellweger at the ICG Publicists Awards

How did Deadpool, a subversive superhero movie made by Fox for just $58 million, gross an astounding $132 million on its opening weekend and, by the end of its theatrical run, $363 million domestically and $783 million worldwide, making it one of the biggest hits of 2016? One reason was publicity and, accordingly, its PR campaign, orchestrated by 20th Century Fox and overseen there by head of domestic publicity Heather Phillips, was hailed Friday with the Maxwell Weinberg Publicist Showmanship Motion Picture Award, recognizing it as the year's best in the film arena at the International Cinematographer's Guild's 54th annual Publicists Awards luncheon. NBC's This Is Us won the equivalent TV honor.

But the biggest story at the Beverly Hilton gathering was the rare public appearance of BWR Public Relations co-founder Nanci Ryder, who is battling ALS, to accept the guild's President's Award from her former client Renee Zellweger. Following a tearful tribute from Zellweger, as well as a montage of Ryder's work in showbiz and on behalf of ALS, Zellweger read a bittersweet acceptance speech from Ryder, who has lost the ability to speak and walk since her diagnosis in 2014. As relayed by Zellweger, Ryder joked that she wanted the award to be renamed for her, since "it doesn't feel like a great time to be getting an award called the President's Award" — after which she was wheeled on to the stage to a prolonged standing ovation.

Ryder also was hailed as the ultimate example of a publicist and "an inspiration" by fellow honoree Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was on hand to collect — from his Almost Famous and Kung Fu Panda 3 collaborator Kate Hudson — the guild's Lifetime Achievement Award. On a lighter note, Katzenberg,  the former CEO of DreamWorks Animation, showed a slideshow of many of the great Cannes PR stunts on behalf of his films — and he then brought the house down with a video of himself promoting 1994's The Lion King, at the urging of a publicist, by playing with a menacing lion on a Las Vegas stage.

Ryan Murphy accepted the guild's Television Showman Award from his muse Sarah Paulson — who said the actress was "single-handedly responsible for making my dreams come true" and "saved my life" — whereupon Murphy said that the showmanship he's proudest of lately is pursuing gender and sexuality equality at his production company.

Fences best actor Oscar nominee Denzel Washington collected the luncheon's final award, the Motion Picture Showman Award.

In the competitive categories, Rosalind Jarrett Sepulveda, who joined the guild in 1980 and has represented the SAG Awards since their sixth ceremony in 2000, was named the winner of the Les Mason Award, the highest honor for a publicist, which she collected from SAG-AFTRA chief Gabrielle Carteris.

Brent Simon won the International Media Award; Andrew Schwartz won the Excellence in Unit Still Photography for Motion Pictures Award; John Johnson won the Excellence in Unit Still Photography for Television Award; and Grae Drake of Rotten Tomatoes won the Press Award — something a past recipient, Anthony Breznican, likened to a cop receiving an award from the mafia.