Topping the first-ever slate of 10 contenders, “The Hurt Locker” has won the Producers Guild of America award for best feature in a portent of an increasingly competitive awards season.
The four “Hurt Locker” producers — director Kathryn Bigelow, screenwriter Mark Boal, Nicholas Chartier and Greg Shapiro — took the Darryl F. Zanuck award Sunday night at the conclusion of the PGA’s ceremonies at the Hollywood Palladium. Winners were chosen in voting by the 4,200 members of the trade org.
“Hurt Locker” won over “An Education,” “Avatar,” “District 9, ” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Invictus,” “Precious,” “Star Trek,” “Up” and “Up in the Air.” The PGA win for “Locker” came a day after it came up empty in the SAG awards as “Basterds” took the cast trophy — and a week after the gritty Iraq War thriller lost the Golden Globe for best drama to James Cameron’s “Avatar” and was shut out in all Globe categories.
“Up” won the animated feature award and “The Cove” copped the documentary trophy. In a repeat of the SAG awards, “30 Rock,” “Mad Men” and “Grey Gardens” took the major TV trophies.
The PGA win gives “Hurt Locker” some momentum back after having mostly dominated the awards season in the major critics prizes including New York, Los Angeles and the National Society of Film Critics. And the PGA’s trophy has matched the Oscar Best Picture winner in 13 of its 20 years, including last year when “Slumdog Millionaire” took both.
The producers branch comprises about 8% of the total AMPAS voting membership of 5,777. Oscar noms will be announced Feb. 2.
“The Hurt Locker” has grossed $12.7 million domestically for Summit — a figure dwarfed by “Avatar,” which finished the weekend with $36 million in its sixth frame for a domestic cume of $552.8 million, surpassing “The Dark Knight” to become the second highest domestic grosser ever. It also grossed $107 million overseas to pass “Titanic as the all-time international champ with $1.28 billion.
With Cameron’s ambitious production and its sensational box office, “Avatar” was widely viewed as a likely PGA winner — given that the produces group’s perceived as being more receptive to commercial titles than the Academy. For example, the PGA nominated “The Dark Knight” last year along with “Slumdog,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Frost/Nixon” and “Milk for its five feature slots; AMPAS opted for “The Reader” instead of the Batpic in its Best Picture list.
Cameron’s “Titanic” won both the PGA and Best Picture in 1998.
But PGA voters were clearly swayed by the tense tale in “Locker” of a U.S. military team defusing bombs — and shot in on a budget of under $20 million. On Saturday at a PGA panel, Bigelow recounted that obtaining permission to bring black powder, model guns and pyrotechnics into Jordan for the production represented a serious hurdle — even to the point of considering smuggling via Beirut before a myriad of meetings with officials resolved the problem.
“I drank more tea than I ever have in my life,” she added.
The PGA had not accredited all four “Hurt Locker” producers when it announced the noms on Jan. 5 and it’s not certain whether the quartet of Bigelow, Boal, Chartier and Shapiro will be included when the Academy announces its Best Picture noms next week. AMPAS has used the PGA selections as guidelines for the past three years in determining the nominated producers in that category — but has also maintained that it limits that number to three, except in exceptional cases.
The PGA had also not accredited the producers for “Up in the Air” on Jan. 5 but decided on the trio of Daniel Dubiecki, Jason Reitman and Ivan Reitman. Producers listed by Paramount include those three plus Jeffrey Clifford.
While losing out to “The Hurt Locker” in the main feature category, Jonas Rivera took the animated trophy for “Up” — topping “9,” “Coraline,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “The Princess and the Frog.” “Up” won the Golden Globe a week ago in the category.
Fisher Stevens and Paula DuPre Pesmen won the documentary award for “The Cove,” as the depiction of dolphin slaughter topped “Burma VJ,” Sergio” and “Soundtrack for a Revolution.”
“30 Rock” repeated as winner of the Danny Thomas trophy in TV series comedy for eight producers, including Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, Marci Klein, David Miner, Robert Carlock, Jeff Richmond, Don Scardino and Jerry Kupfer. The NBC skein bested “Californication,” “Entourage,” “The Office” and “Weeds.”
AMC’s “Mad Men” also repeated in winning the Norman Felton award in TV series drama for Matthew Weiner, Scott Hornbacher, Lisa Albert and Andre & Maria Jacuemetton. It topped “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter,” “Lost” and “True Blood.”
HBO’s “Grey Gardens” continued to rack up awards with the David L. Wolper trophy in long-form TV for Lucy Barzum Donnelly, Rachael Horovitz, Michael Sucsy and David Coatsworth. The telepic bested “Georgia O’Keefe,” “Little Dorrit,” “Prayers for Bobby,” “The Prisoner” and “Taking Chance.”
The PGA also lauded Jeff Fager of CBS’s “60 Minutes” — now in its 41st season — with the nonfiction TV award and Comedy’s Central’s “The Colbert Report” in the live entertainment/competition category.
The event also featured previously announced tribute awards, including “Precious” for the Stanley Kramer Award, along with:
— Michael Lynton, Chairman & CEO of Sony Pictures, and Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures, with the Milestone Award;
— Mark Burnett with the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television;
— John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer for Walt Disney and Pixar, with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Motion Pictures;
— Joss Whedon with the Vanguard Award.
Though this marks the second year the PGA Awards were held at The Palladium, there were still plenty of kinks to be worked out. There were no clips to accompany many of the categories, including best ani feature. Also, a post-awards buffet dinner presented an awkward set-up. Past ceremonies featured pre-show cocktails or a dinner during the kudos.
Complete list of winners:
The Danny Thomas Producer of the Year Award in Episodic Television – Comedy
’30 Rock’ (Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, Marci Klein, David Miner, Robert Carlock ,Jeff Richmond, Don Scardino, Jerry Kupfer)
The Norman Felton Producer of the Year Award in Episodic Television – Drama
‘Mad Men’ (Matthew Weiner, Scott Hornbacher, Lisa Albert, Andre & Maria Jacquemetton)
The Producers Guild of America Producer of the Year Award in Non – Fiction Television
’60 Minutes’ (Jeff Fager)
The Producers Guild of America Producer of the Year Award in Live Entertainment and Competition Television
‘The Colbert Report’ (Stephen T. Colbert, DFA, Jon Stewart, Allison Silverman, Richard Dahm, Meredith Bennett, Tom Purcell)
The David L. Wolper Producer of the Year Award in Long-Form Television
‘Grey Gardens’ (Lucy Barzun Donnelly, Rachael Horovitz, Michael Sucsy, David Coatsworth)
The Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures
‘The Hurt Locker’ (Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro)
The Producers Guild of America Producer of the Year Award in Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures
‘Up’ (Jonas Rivera)
The Producers Guild of America Producer of the Year Award in Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures
‘The Cove’ (Fisher Stevens, Paula DuPré Pesmen)