'Geisha,' 'Walk' create a winning night

“Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Walk the Line” took top feature film nods Saturday night at the Art Directors Guild’s 10th annual Awards for Excellence in Production Design.

Production designer John Myhre and his team of supervising art director Tomas Voth, art director Patrick Sullivan and assistant art director Greg Berry won the period or fantasy feature film trophy for “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

The Johnny Cash biopic scored the contempo feature nod for production designer David J. Bomba and art directors Rob Simons and John Jenson.

For the Oscars’ art direction kudos, Myhre and “Memoirs of a Geisha” are up against “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “King Kong” and “Pride & Prejudice.”

As for the small screen, nod for an episode of a multicamera series went to Fox’s “Mad TV” (episode 1106) production designer John Sabato, art director D. Martyn Bookwalter and assistant art director Nicole Elespuru.

Single-camera series award went to HBO’s “Rome” (episode 1) production designer Joseph Bennett, art directors Domenico Sica, Carlo Serafini and Dominic Hyman and assistant art director Daniella Giovannoni.

Television movie or miniseries trophy went to production designer Stuart Wurtzel for HBO’s “Empire Falls” along with his team of art directors John Kasarda, David Stein and Tom Warren. Production designer Roy Christopher and art directors Greg Richman, Stephan Olson and Joel Celli won the trophy for an awards show, variety or musical special or docu for “The 77th Annual Academy Awards.”

Bud Light’s “Headless Horseman” garnered the commercial nod for production designer James Reed and art director Felicity Nove.

Awards show host Jeffrey Tambor opened the evening by quipping, “This is a real step up for me — last week I hosted the grips‘ awards.”

Helmer Steven Spielberg, who nabbed kudos for contribution to cinematic imagery, thanked the guild for inspiring him. “There is nothing more exciting to me than going on the set and smelling wet plaster,” he said, asking that even with the digital advancements production designers leave “10 feet that can be built, so I’m not walking into a green room.”

Lifetime achievement award went to John B. Mansbridge for a body of work including 102 films and 18 TV productions in a career spanning four decades.

Mansfield came prepared with four pages of thank-yous but decided his list would put the aud to sleep and opted for the short version, thanking “the old-timers” and his mentor, Carroll Clark.

Guild honored Ronald V. Strang with the career achievement in the scenic arts nod. Strang worked on pics including “My Fair Lady,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Cool Hand Luke” at Warner Bros. before assembling scenic shop Superior Backings, which has done background scenery for concert tours.

Strang thanked the old-time art directors, notably his father, Verne, who taught him “the art of scene painting” at Warner Bros., as well as his colleagues and the young scenic artists, including son Ed, who continue to help him with his career.

Veteran production designer Robert Boyle introduced the five inductees into the hall of fame. “It’s kind of an eerie feeling introducing a bunch of art directors who aren’t here,” Boyle said of the late artists.

Inductees are John Box (“The Great Gatsby,” “Nicholas and Alexandra”), Hans Dreier (“Sunset Boulevard,” “Samson and Delilah”), Cedric Gibbons (“The Wizard of Oz,” 1940’s “Pride and Prejudice”), Jan Scott (“Kiss Me Kate,” “The Jimmy Dean Show”) and Alexandre Trauner (“The Apartment,” “The Man Who Would Be King”).

Night also featured the first live public performance by co-composer and thrush Kathleen “Bird” York of Oscar-nominated song “In the Deep” from “Crash.”

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