Skyfall and James Bond were the big winners tonight as the Art Directors Guild handed out its 17th Annual Excellence in Production Design Awards for 2012. Unlike the Academy, the ADG divides production design for film honors into in three distinct categories — Period Film, Fantasy Film, and Contemporary Film — allowing Oscar rivals Anna Karenina and Life Of Pi to both take home top trophies. Meanwhile, Skyfall and its production designer Dennis Gassner took the Contemporary Film honors during the awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton hosted by Paula Poundstone, who kept the stylish below-the-line crowd rolling with trade-oriented zingers throughout the night. (The ADG loves her — it’s Poundstone’s fourth consecutive year doing her outsider stand-up comic routine as emcee.)
Earlier in the evening, the Bond franchise’s production gurus Gassner, Ken Adam, Peter Lamont, and Allan Cameron were honored with the guild’s Cinematic Imagery Award, recognizing the longest-running franchise in film history for its visionary and innovative design. Gassner called the franchise “the greatest privilege of my life and career”. The only person to take the stage twice tonight, he joined the Bond team as production designer on Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall and is working on the next Daniel Craig-starring sequel, Bond 24. “It’s a joy to be able to work with such good people,” he said from the podium after winning the final award of the night, “because it’s such hard work.”
It won’t be the last we hear from Bond this awards season: the Academy plans its own tribute to the franchise, and Adele is singing the Skyfall theme, during the Oscarcast on February 24.
In other top honors tonight, production designer Sarah Greenwood staked her claim as the Oscar frontrunner, winning the Period Film prize for Anna Karenina, and David Gropman won the Fantasy Film award for Life Of Pi. Both brought their considerable crews onstage with them. “No designer acts by himself, so I thank my fantastic crew that helped me on this journey”, Gropman said.
Before the show, four-time Oscar nominee Greenwood spoke with Deadline about her ADG and Academy Award nominations for Anna Karenina (she won her first ADG award for 2010′s Sherlock Holmes): “I get more nervous [with each nominated film]. The first time we came out we had no idea what this was all about. You come in like an ingenue and you’re very naive. Now you come out and it’s quite scary, you’ve really got to keep it up. We always said Anna Karenina was a ‘marmite film’ — you either love it or hate it. And the reactions have been quite profound. People either got it, or they haven’t got it, and that’s fine. Joe had a very strong vision for this and we followed it through.”
Awards in nine categories of production design for film, television, commercials and music videos were announced during the evening, which saw Star Trek production designer and art director Herman Zimmerman receive the guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Family Guy creator (and Oscars 2013 host) Seth MacFarlane spoke of Zimmerman’s Star Trek legacy in a taped video: “Herman Zimmerman deserves a lot of credit that I don’t think he’s ever received for creating what is the most original production design for a spaceship that we’ve ever seen in the modern era of filmmaking.” The guild also enshrined Preston Ames, Richard MacDonald, and Edward S. Stephenson into the Hall Of Fame.
On the TV side, Saturday Night Live and the Academy Awards were repeat winners, while Girls (Judy Becker), Game Of Thrones (Gemma Jackson) and American Horror Story: Asylum (Mark Worthington) also scored. Following is a complete list of winners:
17th Annual Excellence in Production Design Awards
Production Designer: Dennis Gassner
Gassner previously won the Oscar for his work on Bugsy the same year he earned an Oscar nomination for Barton Fink. He is a man of few words but has the presence of mind to add a last important thank you before he departs the dais: “Thank you to David Gersh, my agent.”
LIFE OF PI
Production Designer: David Gropman
Production Designer: Sarah Greenwood
Greenwood, breathlessly accepting her award, brings her production team onstage with her. “To be here in such illustrious company….is such a daunting thing”. She thanks the ADG, president Tom Walsh, and director Joe Wright, “who has these mad visions he needs help with.” The Oscar frontrunner also thanks the guild for welcoming her and her team eight years ago when they first made the trip with Pride And Prejudice.
When Greenwood exits, Poundstone notes, “I’m seeing a lot of British people up here… why is that?”
Commercials and Music Videos
Episode: “Halo 4 Commissioning”; Production Designer: Christopher Glass
“I’d like to thank my mom and dad for taking me to see Ridley Scott’s Alien when I was 6″, Glass just said. “Thanks a lot, mom… The nightmares turned into a career”.
One-Hour Single Camera Television Series
GAME OF THRONES
Episode: “The Ghost Of Harrenhal”; Production Designer: Gemma Jackson
Lifetime Achievement Award
Scott Bakula, who starred in Star Trek: Enterprise, presented the award to to Zimmerman, who couldn’t attend — although Bakula said Zimmerman would have loved to sing to the crowd from the podium. Instead the honoree appeared in via pre-taped video celebrating his career, emphasizing his contributions to the Star Trek franchise. Zimmerman’s longtime art department fixtures Mike Okuda and Doug Drexler accepted the honor on his behalf.
Television Movie or Miniseries
AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM
Episode: “I Am Anne Frank, Part 2″; Production Designer: Mark Worthington
(Poundstone, who landed some good zingers during the opening, introduced LeVar Burton to present the award. She called him “Gordy” Laforge. The Star Trek nerds in the audience sighed a heavy sigh.)
Said Worthington, who beat out varied competition in the category from Hatfields & McCoys, Hemingway & Gellhorn, Game Change and Mockingbird Lane: “Thank you to Ryan Murphy for writing the fever dream that is American Horror Story.”
Episode of a Half Hour Single-Camera Television Series
Episode: Pilot; Production Designer: Judy Becker
Becker gives a shout-out to series creator Lena Dunham, who minutes earlier won a DGA Award for the Girls pilot. “Lena Dunham: I can’t say anything better than she’s the best.”
Awards, Music, or Game Shows
84th ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS
Production Designer: John Myhre
Episode of a Multi-Camera, Variety, or Unscripted Series
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
Episode: Mick Jagger, Host; Production Designer: Keith Raywood
Said Raywood in his speech: “Just a few weeks ago, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the Golden Globes here, so I’ve always wanted to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press”.