This was one of the tightest and certainly best produced Producers Guild Of America awards I have seen (Paula Wagner and Michael Manheim were the event chairs). In fact it was one of the best Guild shows period. The clip reels across the board were exceptional — starting with a hilarious opening montage of movies featuring actors playing producers, agents and studio heads including scenes from everything from Singin’ In The Rain to Barton Fink, from Tom Cruise in his Scott Rudin-takeoff in Tropic Thunder to Martin Short’s beautiful bit as the quintissential showbiz phony Neil Sussman in Christopher Guest’s underappreciated cult classic The Big Picture (“I don’t know you. I don’t know your work. But I think you are a genius and I am never wrong”) to Sigourney Weaver as a take-no-prisoners network exec in the little-seen gem The TV Set. The whole bit killed and should be sending people to Netflix to see some of these satirical masterpieces again -or for the first time. Another reel that also killed was the one introducing Milestone Award recipient Leslie Moonves. “Les Moonves in Two Minutes” was a rapid fire collage of the CBS mogul’s life that even featured rare clips of his (very) past career as a fledgling actor including a painful scene from his 1977 appearance in The Six Million Dollar Man, which he noted in his speech as a low point. He wisely gave that up and his gig as a bartender for the career path of a media mogul.
George Clooney got lots of laughs presenting his former E.R./Warner Bros Television boss Les Moonves the award, particularly with a riotous impression of the now CBS honcho illustrating his negotiating techniques (“‘Look they are going to offer you this and your agent is going to ask for this and we will meet somewhere in the middle so why don’t we just cut to the chase and get on with it and go back to our kids'”.)
Moonves got him back by saying, “I think everyone is aware of the last few weeks and what a low profile you have taken.” And later as he joked, “I think I speak for all the people when I say ‘screw you George Clooney’…But I love you to the end”.
Moonves did tell the crowd that “every production is a minor miracle, every TV show, every movie,” while giving credit to producers like Chuck Lorre, Jerry Bruckheimer and Mark Burnett for overcoming the odds and turning out hits, noting the latter’s Survivor was a stupid idea. “The pitch was put 16 people on an island and have them fight for food,” he said also pointing out that he famously and controversially once said “ideas don’t matter”, but by that he meant until they are executed in the hands of a great producer.
The clips chosen for David O. Selznick Career Achievement winner Steven Spielberg were also great. In fact Spielberg was so blown away by his that he asked in his acceptance speech who put it together because “I think we should have them working for us”. His colleague and co-founder of Dreamworks Jeffrey Katzenberg presented the award saying “no one has given us so many intimate unforgettable movie moments as Steven Spielberg. As director and producer no one has given us more than any person in movie history”. Spielberg gave credit to many of his early mentors in television and later in film, particularly Dick Zanuck and David Brown, the producers of Jaws, and his longtime producing partner (and former PGA head) Kathleen Kennedy. “I love what this Guild has become, recognizing producing as an indispensible creative necessity,” he said. He also noted with affection that the night before his wife Kate Capshaw asked him if David O. Selznick was Irish.
One of the highlights of the 2012 Producers Guild Of America Awards show was a clip for Norman Lear Television Achievement winner (and Oscar show co-producer) Don Mischer that ran in his acceptance speech detailing the stress he’d been under while directing the 2002 Winter Olympic opening ceremony. The video footage shot by his wife showed him freaking out in the booth as the ice skaters who were passing the torch were moving so slowly that the fabled Olympic flame which only had ten minutes of fuel was in danger of burning out before the big moment.
Vanguard Award winner Stan Lee made a gracious speech in accepting his outstanding achievement in new Media and Technology award. The TV winners were fairly predictable with Emmy and Golden Globe mini series/movie winner Downton Abbey repeating here, the much-awarded Modern Family taking comedy and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire ending Mad Men’s multi-year streak. Mad Men has been off the circuit this year because it didn’t air any new episodes in 2011 but somehow it still qualified for a PGA nom. Creator and Executive Producer Matt Weiner told me he has just wrapped the fifth season and, along with Season two, it’s his personal favorite but “totally different”. It hits the air March 25th.
Current PGA presidents Mark Gordon and Hawk Koch announced that the Producers Guild is thriving and just welcomed its 5,000th member. “J.J. Abrams is Number 4,999 and Brad Pitt is Number 5000,” they noted. Pitt, a nominee for Moneyball, didn’t win but his significant other Angelina Jolie won a standing ovation as she accepted the socially conscious Stanley Kramer Award for her Bosnian war-set film, In The Land Of Blood And Honey. She said she was “humbled” by it before singling out her cast who were on all sides of the early 1990s conflict that became the bloodiest war in Europe since WWII. “This belongs to them. It is their story and their film and by honoring them you remember them and we thank you,” she said.