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Producers plug ‘Rouge’

Musical takes best pic prize; 'Sex,' 'Wing' nab TV honors

In another unpredictable turn in this wide-open awards season, the Producers Guild of America has tapped “Moulin Rouge” winner of its best picture award.

The choice, announced at Sunday night’s ceremonies at the Century Plaza in Los Angeles, gives a major boost to the Oscar prospects for 20th Century Fox’s “Moulin Rouge,” director Baz Luhrmann’s eye-popping revamp of movie musicals. It bested “A Beautiful Mind,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” and “Shrek.”

The kudos, dubbed the Darryl F. Zanuck producer of the year award, went to Luhrmann, Fred Baron and Martin Brown.

The PGA announcement was something of a stunner in light of the recent front-runner status accorded “Lord of the Rings,” which took 13 Oscar noms, and “A Beautiful Mind,” which has eight. Although “Rouge” also snared eight noms, its prospects were seen as less hopeful due to its release during the first half of last year and the exclusion of Luhrmann as a nominee in the director category.

“Moulin Rouge,” which has grossed $57.2 million domestically, previously won a best picture award from the National Board of Review and a Golden Globe in the musical/comedy category.

Oscar trackers will have to re-calculate their prognostications, based on the PGA’s solid track record: Nine out of 12 award winners for best pic have matched with those of the Academy, including “Gladiator” last year. Other PGA winners that went on to take home an Oscar were “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Dances With Wolves,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Schindler’s List,” “Forrest Gump,” “The English Patient,” “Titanic” and “American Beauty.”

The PGA diverged with the Academy for 1992 pics when it chose “The Crying Game” and the Oscar went to “Unforgiven”; in 1995, when the guild tapped “Apollo 13” and the Academy chose “Braveheart”; and three years ago, when PGA voters selected “Saving Private Ryan” while “Shakespeare in Love” then took the Oscar.

This year’s PGA vote came amid a significant gain in membership for the org, which has boosted its total membership by 300 to about 1,600, partly through its merger with the American Assn. of Producers.

‘Sex,’ ‘Wing’ top TV

In TV awards, HBO’s “Sex and the City” and NBC’s “The West Wing” scored victories for a second straight year for episodic comedy and drama, respectively.

“Sex and the City” won the Danny Thomas kudos, topping “Frasier,” “Friends,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Will & Grace.” The winning producers were Michael Patrick King, Cindy Chupack, John P. Melfi and Sarah Jessica Parker.

“The West Wing” won the Norman Felton trophy, besting “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Law & Order,” “Six Feet Under” and “The Sopranos.” The winning producers were John Wells, Aaron Sorkin, Thomas Schlamme, Llewelyn Wells, Christopher Misiano, Alex Graves and Michael Hissrich.

HBO scored another victory in longform for the David L. Wolper award, with “Band of Brothers” beating “61*,” “Anne Frank,” “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows” and “Wit.” Winning producers were Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Tony To.

This year’s previously announced PGA kudos include the Milestone Award for Robert Wise, lifetime achievement awards for Lawrence Gordon and Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, and Hall of Fame recognition for “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Network,” “Happy Days” and “Maude.” Pixar received the Vanguard Award for new media and technology; “I Am Sam” won the Stanley Kramer Award for illustrating social issues, and Joel Gallen won the Visionary Award for “America: A Tribute to Heroes.”

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