Producers Guild Awards: 'The Artist' takes home top honors
This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.
The Producers Guild of America gave its top prize to "The Artist" Saturday night, confirming the black-and-white film's status as an Oscar front-runner heading into the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards Tuesday morning. The PGA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have agreed on best picture winners the last four years.
Producer Thomas Langmann, the son of acclaimed French actor, writer and director Claude Barri, accepted the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures for "The Artist," which took home the Golden Globe for best motion picture, comedy or musical, earlier this month.
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, the film is a love letter to Hollywood's Golden Age, telling the story of the intersecting fates of silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and plucky song-and-dance gal Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) at the dawn of the talkies. Since making its debut at the Cannes Film Festival last year, the movie has been collecting accolades and acclaim.
"When Michel and I dreamed of making 'The Artist,' we dreamed of writing a love letter to American cinema," Langmann said. "We just didn't know that we would get a taste of the American dream."
Spielberg, whose other 2011 feature, the stately World War I drama "War Horse," had been nominated alongside "The Artist," also was honored with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures. In presenting the award, DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg said of Spielberg, "He's a great storyteller. He's maintained a deep affinity with his audiences."
During his acceptance speech, Spielberg credited his career to the fact that he came across producers who believed in him, refueled his confidence when it ran low and took a chance on him. He explained that an important aspect in making films is "being able to take chances on men and women who deserve a break. No one can succeed alone."
He continued, "For every film and television show nominated tonight, someone reached out and gave a hand. I am grateful to feel all of yours holding mine right now."
Actor Michael Rapaport certainly seemed both grateful and terribly surprised when his documentary about the groundbreaking hip-hop collective A Tribe Called Quest, "Beats, Rhymes and Life," took home honors for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures -- Rapaport, Edward Parks, Frank Mele and Debra Koffler were the honored producers.
"I really can't believe we won," a visible shaken Rapaport said, before coming out with an off-the-cuff expletive.
On the television side, the Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic TV-drama went to HBO's Prohibition era drama "Boardwalk Empire," while ABC's popular sitcom "Modern Family" won the Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic TV, Comedy.
After collecting the first prize of the evening, "Modern Family" executive producer and creator Steven Levitan appropriately made the audience roar with laughter. "I have to tell you, all through the streets today there was Producer's Guild fever, and it's just such a relief for it to all be over," he said.
Comedian Stephen Colbert and the team from Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" won for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television, though Colbert was not on hand to accept. PBS' Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning miniseries "Downtown Abbey" and its trio of producers, Julian Fellowes, Nigel Marchant and Gareth Neame, took home the PGA's long-form television award.
The prize for competition television went to CBS' globe-trotting contest "The Amazing Race" -- honored producers were Jerry Bruckheimer, Elise Doganieri, Jonathan Littman, Bertram van Munster and Mark Vertullo. PBS' "American Masters" duo Susan Lacy and Julie Sacks won for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction TV.
Among the evening's other honorary awards, "Spider-Man" star Tobey Maguire presented comics icon Stan Lee with his Vanguard Award, while television veteran Don Mischer accepted the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television. Both men received a standing ovation in the ballroom, as did actress Angelina Jolie, who was given the Stanley Kramer Award for her feature directorial debut, "In the Land of Blood and Honey," a love story set against the backdrop of the Bosnian war.
CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves won the Milestone Award, which was presented to him by George Clooney. After his own standing ovation, Moonves quipped that "there is no one in the world I would change places with, except this guy," and promptly pointed to Clooney.
The evening also saw Alicia Keys perform a rendition of her Jay-Z duet "Empire State of Mind" and her song "No One."
-- Susan King and Jasmine Elist
[For the Record: 1:44 p.m. Jan. 23: An earlier version of this post mistakenly attributed the quote from "Modern Family" executive producer and creator Steven Levitan to the show's co-executive producer Danny Zuker. It was Levitan who made the comment.]
Photo: Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in "The Artist" Credit: The Weinstein Co.