Oscar Race Twist! Producers Guild Goes For ‘The King’s Speech’

Reliable Oscar precursor uses Academy’s preferential system to count Best Picture ballots; “Mad Men” and “Modern Family” win top TV prizes.

A funny thing happened to the "Social Network" awards juggernaut on Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton: It lost the Producers Guild of America's top film award to "The King's Speech."

The PGA, one of the most reliable guilds when it comes to predicting Oscar success –and the only one that uses the same system to count votes that the Academy does — went for Tom Hooper's royal drama over David Fincher's Facebook movie, which had been on a seemingly unstoppable run through the critics awards and other honors.  

The King's Speech"I literally jumped out of my skin when they announced our name," Hooper told theWrap minutes after producers Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin were named winners of the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures. "Everybody had told me that I shouldn't expect anything tonight."

In fact, the night's big winner had seemed to be something of a foregone conclusion until the moment Helen Mirren opened the final envelope and said, "I hope this isn't a setup." Before that, "Social Network" producer Scott Rudin had been given the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures, Fincher had presented the Visionary Award to Laura Ziskin, and the night's first winner, Steve Levitan of the comedy television winner "Modern Family," had thrown in a nod to the plotline of "Social Network" by thanking "the two people who thought of the idea for 'Modern Family': the Winklevoss twins." (In Fincher's film, the Winklevosses sue Mark Zuckerberg for stealing the idea for Facebook.)

The PGA victory gives a huge boost to the Weinstein Company's Oscar hopes for "The King's Speech," which came out of the Toronto and Telluride a seemingly ideal Best Picture candidate, but which lost momentum as "The Social Network" began to pile up awards.

The last three Producers Guild winners – “The Hurt Locker,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “No Country for Old Men” – have gone on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. In the 21-year history of the awards, two-thirds of PGA winners have won the Oscar.

Other top winners on Saturday night were the animated feature "Toy Story 3," the documentary "Waiting for 'Superman,'" the televison series "Mad Men" and "Modern Family," and the HBO miniseries "The Pacific."

The winners:

Theatrical Motion Picture: "The King's Speech"
Animated Theatrical Motion Picture: "Toy Story 3"
Documentary Theatrical Motion Picture: "Waiting for 'Superman'"

Episodic Television, Comedy: "Modern Family"
Episodic Television, Drama: "Mad Men"
Long-Form Television: "The Pacific"
Non-Fiction Television: "Deadliest Catch"
Live Entertainment and Competition Television: "The Colbert Report"

Visionary Award: Laura Ziskin
Milestone Award: James Cameron
Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television: Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman
David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures: Scott Rudin
Vanguard Award: Joshua Greer and Michael Lewis, RealD
Stanley Kramer Award: Sean Penn

When the PGA expanded its own Best Picture category from five to 10 nominees to match the Academy’s expansion in 2009, it also changed its voting process in that category to the preferential system used by AMPAS. This makes it the only guild to not only have the same sized field as the Oscars, but also to tally votes in the same way, in which a film must be a consensus favorite in order to win.

Last year’s PGA win for “The Hurt Locker” was a strong sign that “Avatar” was losing momentum, and could be vulnerable under a preferential system.

This year’s PGA ceremony was hosted by producer/director/writer Judd Apatow, who opened with a lengthy monologue ripping Ricky Gervais' job of hosting the Golden Globes, which had taken place in the same room six days earlier.

Apatow also made extensive use of film packages, starting with a webcam chat with Oscar host James Franco in which Franco proposed using the jokes that worked best at the PGAs on the Oscar show, "because nobody watches the Producers Guild." (The show is not televised.)

Presenters included Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, Amy Adams, Amy Poehler, Jim Parsons, Mark Wahlberg, Kenneth Branagh and U.S. army Major Brian Woolworth, who presented Sean Penn with the Stanley Kramer Award for his work in Haiti.