Producers Guild Awards 2014: Tie–12 Years a Slave and Gravity

The Darryl F. Zanuck Award (the PGA Award), which has an even better track record of picking best picture Oscar winners

No less tha 17 of the 24 previous PGA Award winners went on to win the top Oscar, including each of the last six.

Fox Searchlight’s 12 Years a Slave and Warner’s Gravity tied for that prize, something that has never happened before in the guild’s quarter-century history. And thus ended the last long awards show of what presenter Kevin Spacey called “awards hell week” — with exactly six weeks remaining until the 86th Oscar ceremony.

The PGA, which is the largest union of film and television producers, with over 6,000 members around the world, has only picked seven films for its top prize that the Academy did not then second. It went with The Crying Game instead of Unforgiven (1992), Apollo 13 instead of Braveheart (1995), Saving Private Ryan instead of Shakespeare in Love (1998), Moulin Rouge! instead of A Beautiful Mind (2001), The Aviator instead of Million Dollar Baby (2004), Brokeback Mountain instead of Crash (2005) and Little Miss Sunshine instead of The Departed (2006).

PGA is more predisposed to reward commercially successfully projects than the Academy is, and that has generally been borne out by the one or two discrepancies between the two groups’ nominations — for instance, over the past five years, the PGA nominated the blockbusters Star Trek, Bridesmaids, The Town and Skyfall, whereas the Academy did not.

This year, though, the commercial discrepancies between their choices weren’t great: Blue Jasmine ($33 million gross) and Saving Mr. Banks ($75 million gross) received PGA Award noms but did not receive best picture Oscar noms; Philomena ($24 million gross) did not receive a PGA Award nom but did receive a best picture Oscar nom.

American Hustle had some things going for it: the involvement of 27-year-old producer Megan Ellison, who was a double-nominee tonight (she also produced Her) and has been widely praised for giving auteurs the budgets and support they need to do their best work, and the relationships of veteran producer Charles Roven. (Jonathan Gordon and Richard Suckle are the film’s other two producers.)

The prize went to two films whose directors were also among their PGA-credited producers: Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron shared the prize with David Heyman, best known for producing the Harry Potter franchise) and 12 Years (Steve McQueen shared the prize with Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Dede Gardner and Brad Pitt).

Presenter Ben Affleck, whose Argo won the PGA Award and the best picture Oscar last year, announced that there was a tie and then said he would reveal the first winner and invite its producers to give an acceptance speech before announcing the second winner. Gravity got the call first, leaving the other nine nominees nervous

Affleck then called out 12 Years a Slave. Pitt, who spoke first for the film’s producing team, cracked, “I got my vote in at the last minute. I voted for Gravity.”

The best picture Oscar contest looks like it can be won by any of three nominees.  Next Saturday, the DGA will announce its winner: the guild prize with the best track record of all at predicting the best picture Oscar winner.