Ben Affleck and J.J. Abrams at the Producers Guild of America Awards at the… (Todd Williamson / Associated…)
Call it the Affleck Redemption.
After being snubbed for an Oscar nomination for best director earlier this month, Ben Affleck scored a win Saturday night for outstanding producer of a theatrical motion picture for “Argo” at the 24th annual Producers Guild of America Awards. He shared that honor with producing partners George Clooney and Grant Heslov, besting Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” and the movie adaptation of “Les Miserables” as well as six other contenders in the category.
The PGA award arrives as the latest triumph for “Argo,” which won the Golden Globes motion picture-drama prize on Jan. 13. With the producers' translucent cut-glass statuette in Affleck’s and Heslov’s hands (Clooney missed the event because he was working on another movie), the '70s-set Iranian rescue drama solidly re-established itself as a viable best picture Oscar contender after many gurus of gold had counted Affleck and Co. out.
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“I’m not even in the Producers Guild!” he exclaimed at the awards podium inside the Beverly Hilton hotel ballroom. Affleck used his moment in the limelight to try and drum up work outside the producing bubble: “I would be remiss to not say that I am still acting and still available.”
Over the course of a starry evening that saw such A-listers as Nicole Kidman, Channing Tatum, LL Cool J, Robert DeNiro, Jessica Alba, Damien Lewis and Bryan Cranston presenting awards, attendees supped on a menu “created” by celebrity chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (but put on the plate by the Beverly Hilton’s Chef Suki) that included a fennel-citrus salad and a beef shortrib-Thai-curry-eggplant dish.
The PGAs are considered a bellwether of the best picture prize at the Oscars and can turn a race in a movie's favor. Two years ago, for instance, “The King's Speech,” facing a challenge from “The Social Network,” picked up the top prize at the PGAs en route to its Oscar triumph.
In the evening’s other marquee category, outstanding producer of episodic television, Showtime’s “Homeland” scored a PGA victory, beating “Breaking Bad," "Downton Abbey," "Mad Men" and "Game of Thrones."
“Searching for Sugar Man,” the story of the forgotten '70s rock-folk singer Rodriguez, snagged the prize for documentary theatrical motion picture. Also in documentaries, the school-bullying documentary “Bully” won the Stanley Kramer award for illuminating social issues.
The Weinstein Co. co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein were honored with the Milestone Award for their contributions to independent film. In introductory remarks, DeNiro noted of the brothers, who co-founded Miramax Films, “They have enormous heart, enormous personalities -- they’re, well, enormous. They’re always the toughest guys in the room.”
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At the podium, Bob Weinstein gave joking credit to his older brother. “There isn’t a chance in hell I would be up here accepting this award if it wasn’t for my brother Harvey,” he said. “The reason I know that is because that is exactly what he told me five minutes ago.”
On the animated movie side, "Wreck-It Ralph," about a disenchanted video-game character who goes rogue, claimed the prize for best animated feature at the PGAs.
In television categories, “Modern Family” took home the Danny Thomas prize for episodic television comedy, trumping “30 Rock,” “Louie,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” while HBO's Sarah Palin pic “Game Change” scored the outstanding long-form TV prize. And CBS’ “The Amazing Race” walked away with competitive-television honors.
Meanwhile, "The Colbert Report" won for live entertainment/talk and PBS' “American Masters” claimed the statuette for non-fiction television.
J.J. Abrams, who's had a busy time since being hired as director of the new “Star Wars” film on Friday, received the Norman Lear Award for achievement in television. “Typical week,” Abrams quipped from the stage.
The Visionary Award for Work of Uplifting Quality or Vision went to hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. And Working Title Film heads Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner were honored with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in theatrical motion pictures.