‘Pvt.’ 1st class

Producers tap 'Ryan'; Kelly, Hanks TV winners

In a nail-biting year for film competition, Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” gained a beachhead Wednesday by winning the top motion picture award from the Producers Guild of America.

Spielberg — and his producing partners Ian Bryce, Mark Gordon and Gary Levinsohn — beat two pics that are also in competition in the best film Oscar race: “Shakespeare in Love,” produced by David Parfitt, Donna Gigliotti, Harvey Weinstein, Edward Zwick and Marc Norman; and “Life Is Beautiful,” produced by Elda Ferri and Gianluigi Braschi.

The two other contenders for the PGA’s Darryl F. Zanuck Theatrical Producer of the Year award were Paul Colichman, Gregg Fienberg and Mark Harris, for “Gods and Monsters”; and Glynis Murray and Richard Holmes, “Waking Ned Devine.” (Neither of those pics is Oscar-nominated as best pic; the other two nominees for Oscar best pic are “Elizabeth” and “The Thin Red Line.”)

Since the inception of the PGA awards in 1989, the winner of the PGA’s top theatrical award has gone on to win the Oscar for best picture every year with the exception of 1995 (the producers of “Apollo 13” won, while “Braveheart” took the Oscar) and 1992 (the PGA honored “The Crying Game” producers, the Acad voted for “Unforgiven”).

  • In TV, David E. Kelley took home the Norman Felton Producer of the Year award for episodic television for “The Practice,” which also pulled in three Golden Globes and three Emmys. Kelley was also nominated in the same category for “Ally McBeal.”

    The other nominees were Donald P. Bellisario, for “JAG”; Gary Shandling and Brad Grey, “The Larry Sanders Show”; and Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Tony Krantz, Rob Scheidlinger, Thomas Schlamme and Aaron Sorkin, “Sports Night.”

  • In non-episodic TV, Tom Hanks was the victor for “From the Earth to the Moon,” another Globe and Emmy winner.

    Hanks beat Jon Avnet, Jordan Kerner and Carol Schreder, for Alex Haley’s “Mama Flora’s Family”; Marvin Worth, David Ginsburg and Ilene Khan Power, “Gia”; Suzanne de Passe, Suzanne Coston and David V. Picker, “Temptations”; and Oprah Winfrey and Kate Forte, “The Wedding.”

    It was a big night for Hanks, who was also awarded the Nova Award for most promising television producer, for “Moon.” (And, of course, he played the lead in “Ryan.”) Unfortunately, Hanks was filming elsewhere Wednesday and could not be present for the PGA’s Golden Laurels bash at the Century Plaza Hotel; instead, knowing he would be getting the Nova Award, he sent a videotaped thank you message.

  • Spielberg was another two-kudo winner. The PGA gave him the Milestone Award, which honors historic contributions to the motion picture industry.

  • The Nova Award for most promising film producer was given to Peter and Bobby Farrelly, for their heavy-grossing gross-out “There’s Something About Mary.”

  • The Vision Award, which recognizes imagination and artistic achievement in film and television, was presented to Gary Ross for “Pleasantville” and Chris Carter for “The X-Files” and “Millennium.”

  • Steven Bochco was given the David Suskind Lifetime Achievement Award in Television. Bochco is currently producing the sixth season of “NYPD Blue,” and was behind “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law” and “Hooperman.”

During the ceremony, the PGA also inducted four productions into its hall of fame — two motion pictures (“West Side Story” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”) and two TV movies (“Friendly Fire” and “That Certain Summer”).

The PGA was established in 1950 and has approximately 500 active members and 1,000 affiliated members.