Producers and Actors Anoint Argo in its Seemingly Unstoppable Journey to the Oscars - Hillary Atkin

By Hillary Atkin Report Archives
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Chris Terrio did an excellent job writing the screenplay for "Argo," for which he's been nominated for an Oscar, and he could probably write a pretty good story about the drama itself coming from behind to take frontrunner status after its 1-2 victory punch at the PGA Awards and the SAG Awards on January 26 and 27.

On the television side, both guild shows cemented the status of current awards darlings of the small screen: "Homeland," "Modern Family," "The Amazing Race," "Game Change," "Downton Abbey," "Hatfields & McCoys," Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and Bryan Cranston—with just a few surprises along the way.

The producers held their 24th annual ceremonies awarding excellence in film and television in the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton in a freewheeling, un-televised event that offered laughter, tears and abundant Jewish and cocaine jokes.

To get the awards party started, "The Colbert Report" took the prize for outstanding producer of live entertainment/talk television, although its nameplate anchor did not fly out to the coast pick it up. No matter, it's still a point of pride as Stephen will no doubt tell his audience, many, many times – and may even try to rub it in Jon Stewart's face, although Stewart is actually a credited producer on "Colbert" and therefore shares in the prize.

For some funny reason, "The Daily Show" was not among the contenders in the category, but Colbert can claim victory over "Saturday Night Live," "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "Real Time with Bill Maher."

Continuing their respective Emmy sweeps into the winter awards season, the producers of "Homeland" took the PGA award for episodic television drama and "Modern Family's" producers nabbed the statuette for episodic television comedy.

Another awards favorite, long-time Emmy champ "The Amazing Race," took the PGA for competition television.

Television and film producer/director J.J. Abrams ("Lost," "Fringe," "Alias," "Felicity," "Super 8," "Star Trek" and now, drumroll, please, "Star Wars") was honored with the Norman Lear Achievement Award, fittingly presented by Jennifer Garner, star of "Alias," and oh, yeah, man-of-the-moment Ben Affleck's wife and the mother of his two children.

Abrams' speech covered all the emotional bases, starting with his comment, "I stand before you accepting the Norman Lear Award. What the hell has happened to our standards?" He recalled watching Lear's shows as a kid, particularly "All In The Family," before revealing to the crowd that Lear was there for him after his mother, Carol Abrams, herself a TV and film producer, passed away last June.

"I walked into my father's house and there was one guest who arrived first. It was Norman Lear. We laughed and drank. I was there once again in my parent's living room – with Norman Lear."

In describing the loss of his mother and driving to the family home where he had grown up, Abrams realized it should be referred to as just his father's home. "I've always wanted to use the words "christen" and "shiva" in the same sentence," he said.

Somehow English producer Eric Fellner, who with Tim Bevan runs Working Title Films and received of the David O. Selznick Achievement​t Award from their Les Miserables co-star Anne Hathaway–took what Abrams said to mean he was a "self-loathing Jew," saying he was as well. Mentioning this several times along with mispronouncing J.J.'s surname as Abrahams, his meandering speech did nothing to put more gloss on his otherwise sparkling reputation.

As Bevan stood by somewhat awkwardly, Fellner did connect with the crowd when he recalled that 30 years ago, he and Bevan were trolling the streets of London's Soho, "dodging hookers and perverts which in the end prepped us for Hollywood. If we get to do Les Miz 2, all those guys will be in the movie," he said, referring to the producers who sang in the opening video.

It was only fitting that Robert DeNiro, a black cowboy hat-clad Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino introduced Bob and Harvey Weinstein as they received the Milestone Award.

DeNiro noted: "They've been my neighbors in Tribeca and have always been there for me. They're enormous. But I'm not afraid of them! Harvey said it was OK for me to say that."

The iconic actor also ribbed the Weinsteins about casting their "Silving Linings Playbook." "When they came to me with a movie about mental illness, I asked which brother do they want me to portray?"

The brotherly dynamic continued to draw laughs when Bob Weinstein took the microphone. "There isn't a chance in hell I would be up here if it wasn't for Harvey. That's what he told me to say."

He then related the beginning of their partnership, when he was making $35,000 in 1988 at Miramax and Harvey less. "Brad Grey worked for us and even then he thought we worked for him." Bob recalled how he almost took a $60,000 exhibitor booking job at the time, which would have meant giving up the Weinstein's dream of running a film studio.

They decided to give it a go for another year and in 1989 released "My Left Foot," "Cinema Paradiso" and " Sex, Lies, and Videotape"–and the rest is history. He also thanked former New Line heads Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne. "If Macys needed Gimbels, if Ali needed Frazier, then we needed them," said Bob. And to Harvey, "Like all geniuses, you are murder to live with. There is a 60-40 chance that he and I will have a fight before the night is done. Also thank you to Miriam and Max," he concluded with a nod to their parents, from whose names Miramax was created.

When it was Harvey's turn to speak, he also looked back at their history, remembering how they went to the Cannes Film Festival with limited money and no way to get in, until Sean Connery got them into a screening.

Harvey said Miramax could also be considered the House That Ruth Built and called Tarantino the company's Babe Ruth. He lauded De Niro's generosity to the city of New York post 9/11 and his creation of the Tribeca Film Festival and how those efforts were in the forefront of revitalizing Lower Manhattan.

Naturally, Harvey reflected on the power of movies, and how Nelson Mandela told them they eased his time in prison, the executives and agents like Brad Grey, Hannah Minghella and Robert Newman who have worked at Miramax and Weinstein, as well as "my kids who are the best marketing research team in the world."

Hillary Atkin is the editor and publisher of The Atkin Report, and has written extensively on media and entertainment for USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, Daily and Weekly Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, TelevisionWeek, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Observer and LA Confidential. She is an award-winning journalist who began her career as a television news writer, reporter and producer. As a broadcast producer at KCBS in Los Angeles, she won numerous Emmy, Associated Press and Golden Mike Awards for live coverage and entertainment special events programming, and then produced and directed biographies on Robert Duvall, Elizabeth Montgomery, Linda Darnell and Nicolas Cage for A&E and E!. She can be reached at

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