“Argo” has advanced its awards momentum, scoring a major coup with the top trophy from the Producers Guild of America.
The guild presented its Darryl F. Zanuck award to Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Grant Heslov in its 24th annual ceremonies Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton.
Based on voting by the PGA’s 5,400 members, “Argo” topped “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Skyfall” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” All but “Moonrise” and “Skyfall” are also up for the Best Picture Oscar.
“I’m really surprised. I’m not even in the PGA,” Affleck exclaimed in his short acceptance speech. He thanked spouse Jennifer Garner, Warner execs Jeff Robinov and Sue Kroll and fellow producers Clooney — who did not attend — and Heslov.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’m still working as an actor,” he added.
Heslov noted that the challenge for him was working with two producers who have been named People maagzine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” “That puts a lot of pressure on me,” he said.
The win for “Argo,” centering on the CIA rescue of Americans trapped in Iran in 1979-80, came two weeks after it won the Golden Globe for best dramatic film while Affleck picked up the Globes directing trophy.
Affleck wasn’t nominated for a directing Oscar on Jan. 10, two days after scoring a DGA nod.
Since Warner Bros. released “Argo” on Oct. 12, the film has grossed $116 million domestically and another $75 million overseas as the thriller achieved solid mainstream appeal.
The PGA winner has matched the Oscar Best Picture winner in the last five years with “The Artist,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “No Country for Old Men.” The PGA and AMPAS last diverged in 2006 when the Zanuck award went to “Little Miss Sunshine” and “The Departed” won the Oscar.
The PGA uses the preferential balloting system employed for the Academy Awards and the PGA winner has matched the Oscar Best Picture in 16 of 23 years. There are 494 producers in the producers branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — about 8 percent of the AMPAS membership.
Disney’s “Wreck-it Ralph” won the animated feature award for Clark Spencer, topping “Brave,” “Frankenweenie,” “ParaNorman” and “Rise of the Guardians” — the only PGA contender without an Oscar nomination. In his acceptance, Spencer credited John Lasseter with a “renaissance” at Mouse House animation operations.
Malik Bendjelloul’s “Searching for Sugar Man” continued its awards momentum by taking the documentary trophy over “The Gatekeepers,” “A People Uncounted,” “The Island President” and “The Other Dream Team.”
“Sugar Man” and “Gatekeepers” are also Oscar nominees.
“Homeland” won the Norman Felton drama series award over “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men.” “Boardwalk Empire” had won the category last year, breaking a three-year run by “Mad Men.”
“Modern Family” scored its third straight Danny Thomas award for episodic comedy over “30 Rock,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Louie.”
“Game Change” won the David O. Wolper award for longform TV over “American Horror Story,” “The Dust Bowl,” “Hatfields & McCoys” and “Sherlock.”
Reality mainstay “The Amazing Race” won the competition TV award for second year in a row as did PBS’s “American Masters” in the non-fiction TV category. “The Colbert Report” took the live entertainment-talk category.
J.J. Abrams, a day after taking on the next “Star Wars,” cracked up the crowd by saying “Typical week” at the start of his acceptance speech for the Norman Lear award for TV. “Surreal, gratifying and undeserved,” Abrams said of the previously announced kudo.
Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan were presented with the David O. Selznick achievement award for feature films. Fellner elicited a major laugh by starting, “It’s at this particular moment that I wish I’d written something down.”
Other previously announced awards included the documentary “Bully,” which won the Stanley Kramer award for illuminating social issues; the Visionary Award to Russell Simmons; and the Milestone for Harvey and Bob Weinstein, presented by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.
“The trajectory of my career would not be the same without the Weinstein brothers,” Tarantino said.
Robert DeNiro received one of the biggest laugh of the night in introducing the Weinsteins by saying, “They’re the toughest guys in the room. I’m not afraid of them. Harvey said it was OK to say that.”Complete list of PGA winners:
The Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures:
ARGO (Warner Bros.)
Producers: Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:
WRECK-IT RALPH (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Producer: Clark Spencer
Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures:
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (Sony Pictures Classics)
Producers: Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn
The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television:
“Game Change” (HBO)
Producers: Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Jay Roach, Amy Sayres, Steven Shareshian, Danny Strong
The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy:
“Modern Family” (ABC)
Producers: Cindy Chupack, Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Morton, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Chris Smirnoff, Brad Walsh, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker
The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama:
Producers: Henry Bromell, Alexander Cary, Michael Cuesta, Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Chip Johannessen, Michael Klick, Meredith Stiehm
Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television:
“The Colbert Report” (Comedy Central)
Producers: Meredith Bennett, Stephen Colbert, Richard Dahm, Paul Dinello, Barry Julien, Matt Lappin, Emily Lazar, Tanya Michnevich Bracco, Tom Purcell, Jon Stewart
Outstanding Producer of Competition Television:
“The Amazing Race” (CBS)
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Elise Doganieri, Jonathan Littman, Bertram van Munster, Mark Vertullo
Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television:
“American Masters” (PBS)
Producers: Prudence Glass, Susan Lacy, Julie Sacks
Outstanding Sports Program:
“Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” (HBO)
Outstanding Children’s Program:
“Sesame Street” (PBS)
Outstanding Digital Series:
“30 Rock: The Webisodes” (www.nbc.com)