EXCLUSIVE… UPDATED: Not only has controversy erupted today on the subject of producer credits and the PGA Theatrical Motion Picture Awards which also determine the Best Picture Oscar credits, but it’s now over before the Hollywood community even had a chance to weigh in on it. Down for the PGA count are three of the 6 producers of The Fighter. The PGA lists David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, and star Mark Walhberg but omits Ryan Kavanaugh, Dorothy Aufiero, and Paul Tamasy (who did get a WGA nomination for his script). All six appeared for a Q&A following the film’s official PGA screening on November 22nd but only three as of now will be allowed to accept the PGA honor should The Fighter win. Kavanaugh came to the rescue of the film and financed it through his Relativity Media after Paramount exited and did, I am told, appeal the PGA’s decision to leave him out in the cold. The PGA does not publicly comment on arbitrations, but a source close to the Producers Guild has now confirmed to me that the appeals process is now over and “the original decision was in fact affirmed so the PGA process is complete and credits as released this morning are final”. Which means that Kavanaugh now has no recourse.
A source close to the situation tells me that Kavanaugh was very hands-on as a producer and involved in every aspect “present and accountable from script to score to editing and not just a check writer”. The source reiterates that Kavanaugh is very aware of the different hats he wears as studio head and producer but insists he was involved in every aspect of the making of The Fighter. Director David O. Russell among others will back up that claim. A highly informed PGA source confirms Kavanaugh’s omission and also indicates this will be the case for their recommendations to the Academy should The Fighter get a Best Picture Oscar nomination.
Of course the PGA and the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences have been down this path before, most famously with Bob Yari who financed the eventual 2005 Best Picture winner Crash and was also one of six credited producers but nixed when it came time to hand out the Oscars. Yari got involved with a protracted lawsuit against the Academy but did not prevail. Only Paul Haggis and Cathy Schulman were given Oscar statuettes for the win.
Other producers not listed in their official press release as eligible to accept the award this year are three of the 6 credited producers of The Kids Are All Right – Jordan Horowitz, Phillippe Hellmann, and Daniela Taplin Lundberg – along with Black Swan’s Arnold Messer and 127 Hours’ John Smithson. I’ve not heard if they are appealing.
As usual, the PGA is vigilant when it comes to actually vetting the producers involved in the making of its nominated films (which it also does for the Motion Picture Academy as well) and often makes Solomon-like decisions on who’s in and who’s out based on the Guild’s stringent vetting process which doesn’t always rubber stamp official credits.
As the season now swings toward all-important Hollywood Guild nominations whose memberships heavily overlap with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, today’s announcements of both the Producers Guild and Writers Guild were very good news for the Oscar hopes of Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, The Town, True Grit, and 127 Hours which all managed to make both lists. In addition to those 8 films, the PGA also nominated Toy Story 3 and The King’s Speech which were both ineligible for WGA awards since they weren’t produced under WGA jurisdiction.
The Producers Guild, in their second year of naming 10 nominees instead of 5 (like AMPAS), came up with a list that could very well mirror the Academy’s when it is announced on January 25th. Studios accounted directly for 6 of the 10 nominees and indirectly for another 3 that came from their specialty divisions. Only one non-studio affiliated film, The Weinstein Company’s The King’s Speech, made the list this year as opposed to last year when Weinstein, Lionsgate, and Summit Entertainment with eventual winner The Hurt Locker were also included. Last year the PGA matched Oscar on 8 out of 10 nominees. (PGA nods for Invictus and Star Trek went to The Blind Side and A Serious Man at the Academy). The 2010 PGA lineup is ripe with box office winners ignoring smaller grossers like Winter’s Bone and Rabbit Hole in favor of bigger, very predictable titles – at least if you listen to pundits. There were no real surprises on the major studios vs true indies list.
As for the WGA, even with the disqualifications of likely Oscar nominees The King’s Speech and Toy Story 3, a good number of today’s nominees are also certain to show up at the Academy as well. The only major surprises on the WGA lists were Nicole Holofcener’s little-buzzed about but critically acclaimed April release, Please Give, in Original Screenplay, and John Requa and Glenn Ficarra’s Adapted Screenplay nod for I Love You, Phillip Morris, a Jim Carrey starrer that famously had trouble even finding a domestic distributor until Roadside Attractions finally picked it up for December release. It was nominated over other eligible contenders like Pulitzer Prize-winner Rabbit Hole, Shutter Island, and others.
Holofcener told me she was shocked about her Please Give nod even though she voted for herself. It’s her first nomination for anything like this, she says. “I sat down to work with more confidence than I had yesterday,” she notes but still was very surprised to see her little movie “on the same list as Inception.”
The issue of sending screeners could be a reason. Some high profile films weren’t sent to WGA membership while smaller films like Please Give and I Love You, Phillip Morris were sent, and helped greatly. That had to be a factor in getting these smaller releases seen and nominated. Among other nominees that sent screeners to the large membership of WGA: Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Town, True Grit, and The Fighter. Four other movies also sent screeners but weren’t nominated, including Get Low, Barney’s Version, Somewhere, and Company Men which was written by WGA President John Wells and the only one of The Weinstein Company films that was WGA-eligible this year.
NEXT UP: The Directors Guild nominations on Monday. With only five slots, these key nominations may well offer the definitive word on establishing the frontrunners in this year’s wide open Oscar race.
Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.