'Oppenheimer' keeps devouring awards with top prize at Producers Guild, with Oscars up next

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Cillian Murphy, from left, Emily Blunt, and Robert Downey Jr. arrive at the 35th Annual Producers Guild Awards on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, at The Ray Dolby Ballroom in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – With two weeks to go before the Oscars, “Oppenheimer” looks unstoppable.

Director and producer Christopher Nolan’s tale of the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer and the birth of the atomic age won the top prize Sunday at the 35th Producers Guild of America Awards — a frequent predictor of Oscar best picture winners — the night after doing the same at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

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“Oppenheimer” won the PGA's Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures over the exact same set of 10 nominees up for best picture at the March 10 Academy Awards, including “ Barbie,” “ Poor Things ” and “ Killers of the Flower Moon,” whose director, Martin Scorsese, was honored Sunday for his concurrent career as a producer.

The Zanuck Award winner has gone on to take the best picture Oscar for five of the past six years, and 12 of the past 15, including last year with “ Everything, Everywhere All at Once.”

From the stage at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood, in the same complex where the Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre, Nolan thanked his fellow producer Charles Royen for giving him “American Prometheus,” the book that led to “Oppenheimer,” and “starting a chain reaction that’s spread all over the world.”

Earlier in the show, Robert Downey Jr. called it “the highest-grossing film about theoretical physics yet made.”

Downey on Saturday won best supporting actor at the SAG Awards, where ”Oppenheimer" also won best ensemble, part of an awards season sweep that also included wins at the Golden Globes and Directors Guild Awards.

“Succession” and “ The Bear " took the top television prizes at the PGA Awards after doing the same at the SAG Awards and last month's Emmy Awards.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” nominated for the animated feature Oscar, won the PGA's animated motion picture award. Its predecessor, ”Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” won the PGA award in 2019 before going on to win the Academy Award.

Scorsese joined Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg and Kevin Feige as winners of the David O. Selznick award for an outstanding body of work as a producer of motion pictures.

Scorsese said the first film he remembers seeing, at age 4, was the Selznick written and produced “Duel in the Sun.”

"It was condemned by the Catholic church, and my mother wanted to see it,” Scorsese told the audience. “She said, ‘The kid likes westerns, I’m taking him.’”

Scorsese said “the very first impact of classic Hollywood cinema starts right there for me. Slashes of color, movement, the landscapes, stunning set pieces.”

He called them “Proustian sense memories” of early cinema.

“I was frightened by them," he said, "and thrilled.”

The 81-year-old said he was grateful for the privilege of getting to spend his life exploring “beauty that’s at the core of what we all strive to do.”

Scorsese-produced films include his own “Hugo,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Silence” and “Killers of the Flower Moon,” along with dozens of films for younger directors including Spike Lee’s “Clockers,” the Safdie brothers’ “Uncut Gems” and Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir.”

Other career achievement awards went to producers Charles D. King and Gail Berman.

King became the first Black winner of the PGA's Milestone Award, whose previous winners include Walt Disney, Clint Eastwood and George Lucas, for historic career contributions to the motion picture industry.

King was lauded for leaving his job as a Hollywood agent in 2015 to found MACRO, a media company dedicated to amplifying the voices of black artists and other people of color.

The company has produced films including 2016's “Fences” starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, who won an Oscar for the role, and 2021's “Judas and the Black Messiah,” for which King was personally nominated for an Oscar as a producer.

King thanked “our ancestors who kicked down doors, made sacrifices and blazed a trail for me to be able to do what I’m blessed to do.”

Berman, the only woman to have held the top job at both a major film company and television network, was given the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television. Berman was the driving force behind the creation and airing of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” whose star, Sarah Michelle Gellar, presented her the award.

“Not a single person on this earth was interested in buying that television show,” Berman said. “But I just couldn’t ignore my gut telling me there was something unique there.”

The PGA announced an initiative during the show that seeks to provide healthcare coverage for its member producers who are not covered other ways. Members of the actors and writers guilds have long used the unions for health insurance.

“Producers deserve to be covered,” PGA Co-President Stephanie Allain said.

The effort involves asking production companies, including major studios and streamers, to include contributions to producers’ health coverage on its production budgets.

Film companies Blumhouse, Legendary and King's MACRO already have signed on.

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