Sam Mendes’ World War I drama “1917” got a boost in its bid to win the Best Picture Oscar when it took home the top prize at the 31st annual Producers Guild Awards Saturday night. The winner of the PGA Awards’ top prize, the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, has historically been a strong indicator of which film will go on to win the Best Picture Oscar. Since 1989, the PGA winner has matched up with the top Oscar 21 out of 30 times. (In early 2014, “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” tied at the PGAs; “12 Years a Slave” won the Oscar a few weeks later.)
Last year, Peter Farrelly’s controversial racial drama “Green Book” took the top PGA trophy before going on to win the Best Picture Oscar. This year “1917” bested the other eight films competing for the top Oscar at the PGAs, as well as a tenth film, Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” — which settled for an Original Screenplay Oscar slot.
The victory comes after surprise wins for Bong Joon Ho’s acclaimed South Korean thriller “Parasite” and Taika Waititi’s Nazi satire “Jojo Rabbit” at the ACE Eddie Awards Friday, which took home top prizes for drama and comedy, respectively.
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Because “1917” is a British film about a war that happened a century ago, and required extensive rehearsals in order to shoot in real time, Mendes said, “1917 is a film that for multiple reasons I still can’t believe we got made — much less by a major studio.”
The director-writer-producer said the DreamWorks/Universal film was inspired by his grandfather, who served in World War I. In his acceptance speech, Mendes celebrated his collaborators on the movie, including cinematographer Roger Deakins. The production schedule required a two-year commitment from many of those who worked on the film. Mendes called the experience “humbling and joyful and by far the best experience of my personal life.”
“Toy Story 4” won the top animated film award and is a frontrunner for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. “Apollo 11” won the top documentary prize, but that film isn’t in the running for the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award, which will go to either “American Factory,” “The Cave,” “The Edge of Democracy,” “For Sama,” or “Honeyland.”
The producers of the Fox News sexual misconduct drama “Bombshell” were among those honored with a special prize: the Stanley Kramer Award, given to producers of films in the spirit of the legendary director-producer’s “message films” focused on social issues.
Director-producer Jay Roach praised Best Actress nominee Charlize Theron, who has been publicly recognized for her stunning transformation into Megyn Kelly, but less so for her turn as producer on the film. “She brought us all together, she kept us all together, she kept us in the air and she saved us for real when we were falling from the sky,” Roach said. Theron got backing from Lionsgate when Annapurna withdrew from the film.
Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment was honored with the David O. Selznick Award. The company produced such films as “Moonlight,” 12 Years a Slave,” and “The Departed.” Pitt said when he first started as an actor he wasn’t quite sure what a producer’s job was. “I’m now painfully aware of what you do and I commend you all,” he said. “I think that our job as producers are ultimately protectors and stewards — protectors of story, stewards of storytellers.”
He continued: “I have no regrets, other than sharing our name with an emergency contraceptive pill … didn’t see that one coming.”
Here is the complete list of nominees and winners:
Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures
Producers: Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Jayne‐Ann Tenggren, Callum McDougall
“Ford v Ferrari”
Producers: Peter Chernin & Jenno Topping, James Mangold
Producers: Jane Rosenthal & Robert De Niro, Emma Tillinger Koskoff & Martin Scorsese
Producers: Carthew Neal, Taika Waititi
Producers: Todd Phillips & Bradley Cooper, Emma Tillinger Koskoff
Producers: Rian Johnson, Ram Bergman
Producer: Amy Pascal
Producers: Noah Baumbach, David Heyman
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Producers: David Heyman, Shannon McIntosh, Quentin Tarantino
Producers: Kwak Sin Ae, Bong Joon Ho
Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures
Producer: Suzanne Buirgy
Producer: Peter Del Vecho
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
Producers: Bradford Lewis, Bonnie Arnold
Producers: Arianne Sutner, Travis Knight
“Toy Story 4” (winner)
Producers: Mark Nielsen, Jonas Rivera
Outstanding Producer of Documentary Motion Picture
“Apollo 11” (winner)
“One Child Nation”
Anne Thompson contributed reporting.