A correction was made to this article on Jan. 7, 2004.
Opting for an eclectic mix of dramas and comedies, the Producers Guild of America has nominated Miramax/Warner’s “The Aviator,” Miramax’s “Finding Neverland,” Disney/Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” Warner’s “Million Dollar Baby” and Fox Searchlight’s “Sideways” for its picture award.
The noms, based on voting by the org’s 2,000 members, are a closely watched indicator of Oscar sentiment. A significant number of PGA voters are Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences members.
“It all starts here,” noted awards co-chair Stacey Sher at the announcements at Culver Studios, which will be the site of the awards show Jan. 22. Oscar noms will be announced Jan. 25.
In the PGA’s five TV categories, HBO led with six noms, followed by NBC with five and CBS with three. A&E, ABC and Bravo earned two apiece. Comedy Central, Fox, FX, Showtime and the WB each scored one.
The nominees for film, which will compete for the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year kudos, provide Oscar clues, but the guild has a mixed track record as an Oscar bellwether. In five of the last six years, only three out of five PGA contenders went on to rack up Acad nominations.
The PGA’s better at predicting Oscar winners. Eleven of the 15 PGA winners went on to scoop the picture Oscar, including “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” last year.
The four discrepancies: PGA chose “Moulin Rouge” in 2002 (“A Beautiful Mind” won the Oscar), “Saving Private Ryan” in 1999 (“Shakespeare in Love”), “Apollo 13” in 1996 (“Braveheart”) and “The Crying Game” in 1993 (“Unforgiven”).
In a wide-open year, the PGA bypassed such pics as “Before Sunset,” “Collateral,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Hotel Rwanda,” “Kinsey,” “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera,” “Ray” and “Vera Drake.”
By selecting “Sideways” and “Million Dollar Baby,” the PGA also departed somewhat from its historical penchant for tapping mostly big-budget vehicles while looking past smaller projects.
“Incredibles” has been the biggest box office performer by far among the five nominees, with over $251 million domestic. “Aviator” has grossed $31.5 million; “Finding Neverland,” $24.7 million; “Sideways,” $22.4 million; and “Million Dollar Baby,” $1 million — at just nine theaters.
“Sideways” producer Michael London credited director Alexander Payne with hitting a tone that made the film emotionally accessible to audiences. “Because of that, it speaks to people on a warm, personal, direct level,” he added.
“Finding Neverland” producer Richard Gladstein told Daily Variety that the period drama was able to connect with auds looking for tone and sentiment without the current day’s pervasive cynicism. “It’s from the heart, and I would like to think that perhaps that’s what struck a chord with audiences.”
In Paris, “Aviator” producer Graham King said most people think of Howard Hughes as an eccentric recluse. But this film is about “a dreamer and an entrepreneur; it’s the story of someone so many people can relate to.”
King continued, “As a producer it’s great to get nominated, but it all comes down to the filmmaker. (Martin) Scorsese is such a genius; if it weren’t for him, we’d have nothing.”
“Incredibles” producer John Walker said he was particularly pleased that his film has become just the second animated pic to earn a PGA nom (after “Shrek”).
“It’s great that animated films are being treated like just films, and I love being in such august company with the other nominations,” Walker said. “And I think people in the business are beginning to realize the amount of work that goes into our films.”
“Million Dollar Baby” producer Al Ruddy said, “Getting this movie made was a million-to-one shot because the first reaction was always who’s going to want to see something about a girl boxer and two old guys.”
Ruddy, noting that he optioned the material in 2000, said, “We’ve all done movies that don’t work, but when it works this well, every day of the four years is worth it. I just wish that every producer in the business would have the opportunity to work with Clint Eastwood.”
Nominees for the Danny Thomas kudos for episodic comedy are Fox’s “Arrested Development”; HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Sex and the City” and NBC’s “Scrubs” and “Will & Grace.” “Sex and the City” won the award in 2001, 2002 and 2004; “Curb” took the trophy in 2003.
Finalists for the Norman Felton trophy for episodic drama are CBS’ “CSI,” FX’s “Nip/Tuck,” HBO’s “Six Feet Under” and “The Sopranos” and NBC’s “The West Wing.” “Six Feet Under” took the prize last year.
Nonfiction noms went to CBS’ “The Amazing Race,” NBC’s “The Apprentice,” ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and Bravo’s “Inside the Actors Studio” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” “Queer Eye” won the award last year.
Noms for the David L. Wolper kudos for longform went to HBO’s “Angels in America” and “Something the Lord Made,” A&E’s “Horatio Hornblower” and “Ike” and Showtime’s “Lion in Winter.”
The PGA unveiled a new category for variety television, with mentions going to ABC’s “76th Annual Academy Awards,” Comedy Central’s “Chappelle’s Show,” Warner Bros.’ syndicated “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” CBS’ “The Late Show With David Letterman” and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
“Sideways” star Virginia Madsen and “Nip/Tuck” star Julian McMahon made the nomination announcements, which did not include names of producers. The PGA, which has campaigned in recent years for tightened standards on producer credits, is conducting an accreditation process in both the film and TV races.