“You guys, this is insane,” said “Everything Everywhere All at Once” producer Jonathan Wang as he closed his speech accepting the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures at the 2023 Producers Guild of America Awards on Saturday. “This is insane!”
Standing next to his fellow producers Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the writer-director duo behind the hit A24 film, as well as stars Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Stephanie Hsu, Wang’s speech spoke to the sentiment that’s surrounded the 2022 SXSW premiere’s year-long rise toward being the most nominated film at the 95th Oscars. “All you other nominees, you guys shouldn’t have accepted me, you guys shouldn’t have welcomed me in, but I feel like family in this room with you,” said the self-effacing producer.
On paper, a dramedy centered on an Asian American family, set in multiple universes, featuring dildo fights and hot dog fingers, should not be a film that strikes a chord with an Academy that, despite all its efforts this past decade to diversify, still has a voting base that is 66 percent male and 81 percent white. But with the Daniels winning the DGA Award, and now the film winning the PGA Award, all signs point to “Everything Everywhere All at Once” capturing the hearts of enough voters to win the Best Picture Oscar on March 12.
Of the 15 films that have won both those awards since 2000, only four have not gone on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The PGA Award is particularly indicative of how Oscar voters are feeling about a nominee, because the guild uses the same kind of preferential ballot as the Academy Awards.
All that said, being in the room full of producers on Saturday evening, one would have expected the night to end with a different winner. “Top Gun: Maverick” star Tom Cruise was once again the center of attention inside the International Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton two weeks after the Oscar Nominees Luncheon that produced that viral clip of Steven Spielberg thanking him for waiting to bring the movie to theaters. “Theatrical was on the ropes, but then Spielberg nailed it: Tom Cruise came along and saved Hollywood’s ass,” said actor Daveed Diggs, who gave the opening remarks at the PGA Awards.
From there, Cruise, who was also set to receive the special David O. Selznick Award, got a shoutout from Milestone Award winners and current Warner Bros. Pictures Group CEOs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, a Mazel Tov from a producer of comedy series winner “The Bear,” and a plea from Liz Meriwether, creator of limited series winner “The Dropout,” asking him to pull some strings with DWP to get her power back on. “I’ve seen the movie ‘Chinatown,’ I know how this town works,” joked the TV writer. “I will do anything.”
To give a better idea of how much Tom Cruise was made the main character of the PGA Awards, the clip package that played before he got on stage to accept the David O. Selznick Award was 13 minutes long. “I want to thank the studios, all of them. Each one of you for teaching me what it is that you do,” said the actor-producer, casting a wide net with his appreciation.
However, as he continued, the star said a line that is sure to be taken out of context by his critics. “You’ve all enabled me the adventurous life that I’ve wanted,” said Cruise. “I’ve been able to travel the world and work and watch films in so many countries to share in their cultures and realize how much we all have in common, and to admire our differences.”
In introducing her “Till” producers, winners of the special Stanley Kramer Award, star Danielle Deadwyler also had a line in her speech that had weighty subtext. “It is so important that we collectively continue to create and nurture important subject matter, even if it means we must fight with an especial vigor and passion,” said the actress who made headlines recently for speaking out about the film being shut out of Oscars contention. “We need more stories that showcase diversity across skin color, religion, gender, sexuality, and ability. There is no room for hate, or for any type of exclusion in this guild, or in the work we produce.”
Both the Animated and Documentary Feature winners similarly used their PGA Award acceptance speeches to make a broad note about how the industry could improve. “The documentary community is undergoing a massive shift, and we need more champions of truth to take risks, to bring these kinds of stories to the world,” said “Navalny” producer Melanie Miller.
Along those same lines, “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” helmer Guillermo del Toro, a frontrunner for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, repeated the same point he has been emphasizing throughout awards season, that animation is a medium meant for everyone — not just children. “Every artist in this medium is trying to push it towards things that can be meaningful for all of us,” said del Toro. “You can see the potential there, and we can make it happen. We have to venture into territories that don’t feel safe, but will be much more rewarding.”