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‘King’ hailed by producers

Jackson, Walsh, Osborne take home Zanuck award

This article was updated on Jan. 18, 2004.

New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” has won the Producers Guild of America’s top kudos.

The 2,000-member org awarded “Return of the King” producers Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Barrie M. Osborne the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in ceremonies Saturday night at the Century Plaza Hotel.

Kudos for the finale of the “Rings” trilogy surprised no one even though it topped a field of formidable major studio pics — Miramax’s “Cold Mountain,” Warner’s “The Last Samurai” and “Mystic River,” Fox’s “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” and Universal’s “Seabiscuit.”

“Return of the King” had already emerged as an Oscar front-runner following picture of the year nods from the New York Film Critics and the Broadcast Film Critics plus a DGA nom for Jackson and a SAG nom for the ensemble cast. In addition, “Return of the King” has been by far the strongest box office performer of the six, with current worldwide grosses of around $825 million.

Oscar harbinger

The selection of top feature has matched the best picture Oscar in 10 of the last 14 years, including “Chicago” last year.

Osborne accepted the award from presenter Scarlett Johansson and noted that the production on the trilogy began in 1999 with a group of strangers. “Five years later, we are a family, and this award recognizes what we accomplished as a family,” he added.

Besides “Chicago,” other double PGA-best picture Oscar winners include “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Dances With Wolves,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Schindler’s List,” “Forrest Gump,” “The English Patient,” “Titanic,” “American Beauty” and “Gladiator.” The PGA opted in 2002 for “Moulin Rouge” while “A Beautiful Mind” took home the Oscar; other splits came when the PGA tapped “Saving Private Ryan,” “Apollo 13” and “The Crying Game,” while the Oscars went to, respectively, “Shakespeare in Love,” “Braveheart” and “Unforgiven.”

HBO blowout

HBO dominated the TV awards, winning for comedy and drama series along with longform. Alan Ball, Alan Poul and Robert Greenblatt & David Janollari won the Norman Felton Producer of the Year Award in episodic TV drama for “Six Feet Under”; “Sex and the City” producers Michael Patrick King, Cindy Chupack, John P. Melfi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jenny Bicks and Jane Raab took home the Danny Thomas Producer of the Year Award in episodic comedy for the third straight year; and Frank Golger, Robert Allan Ackerman and Ann Wingate won the David Wolper Award for longform for “My House in Umbria.”

None of the “Sex and the City” producers were on hand to accept as the skein’s final episodes are currently in production in Paris. “Sex” also took home the comedy trophy in 2001 and 2002, while “Curb Your Enthusiasm” won last year.

‘Straight’ rates

Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” won the reality/game/information category, with producers David Collins, Michael Williams, David Metzler and Lynn Sadofsky taking the trophy.

In previously announced tributes, James Cromwell presented Mike Nichols and Cary Brokaw with the Visionary Award for their work in producing HBO’s “Angels in America”; Warren Beatty was presented the Milestone Award by Robert Towne; Martin Sheen presented Jim Sheridan and Arthur Lappin with the Stanley Kramer Award for “In America”; Dino De Laurentiis was presented with the David O. Selznick Award by Baz Luhrmann; Jamie Lee Curtis presented the Vanguard Award to James Cameron.

Beatty beat

Beatty’s low-key acceptance speech evoked multiple laughs, poking fun at himself for his seemingly slow pace of producing and capped by a re-creation of De Laurentiis in the midst of negotiations. “Thank you and let’s have a meeting,” Beatty concluded.

“Saturday Night Live” cast member Tina Fey presented Lorne Michaels with the David Susskind Achievement Award in New York via a live video feed to the Century Plaza at the conclusion of the evening’s taping of “SNL” in New York. “He’s in every day at the crack of 4, rolls his calls and goes to a Yankees game,” Fey said.

About 1,000 attended the ceremonies, emceed by John Larroquette.

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