I’m always slightly surprised when awards bodies choose to bestow a lifetime achievement honor upon a recipient already firmly in the running for a competitive prize that year. Something about it seems a tad gauche and redundant to me: why not single out a worthy candidate not already being feted throughout the season?
Still, it’s a route the Producers’ Guild of America has taken for the last few years with their highest career honor, the David O. Selznick Award Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures. Last year, Steven Spielberg was given the award on top of his Producer of the Year nomination for “War Horse,” and his equivalent citation in the animated field for “The Adventures of Tintin.” (He won the latter, to boot.) The year before, Scott Rudin received the Selznick Award, just as he was favored by many to take the PGA prize for “The Social Network.” (As it turned out, he didn’t.)
This year, the producers aiming for double glory with the Guild are Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan, the British-New Zealand duo who have jointly headed London-based production company Working Title Films since 1992. (Bevan co-founded Working Title nine years earlier.)
As the men who helped change the face of UK cinema in the 1990s and beyond with such crossover successes as “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Elizabeth” and “Billy Elliot” — and also guided a number of US indies to the screen, including several Coen Brothers titles — they’re as worthy as anyone of career recognition. But it comes in the very season they’re likely to share in a Producer of the Year nod for Working Title’s Oscar hopeful “Les Miserables.” Could they take both awards? Or is the Selznick a pre-emptive consolation prize?
Either way, it’ll be both men’s first ever award from the Guild: Fellner has been nominated once before, as one of the producers of “Frost/Nixon.” The Academy has been more generous, perhaps reflecting the larger proportion of Brits in their membership: both Bevan and Fellner received Best Picture nominations for “Elizabeth” and “Atonement.” (Ironically, they lost the latter bid to “No Country for Old Men,” one Coen Brothers project in which they didn’t have a hand.) Unsurprisingly, they’ve had the most luck at the BAFTAs, taking Best Film for “Atonement,” and Best British Film for both “Elizabeth” and last year’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”
Other titles on which they share a producer or executive producer credit, illustrating the range and reach of their influence, include “Dead Man Walking,” “Notting Hill,” “Fargo,” “Thirteen,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “United 93” and “Senna,” while Bevan is also credited on this year’s “Anna Karenina.” An honorary award could hardly be more deserved, even if it is oddly timed.
In response to the announcement, Bevan and Fellner offered this short statement: “We are delighted and honored to be receiving the David O. Selznick Award. When you look at the past recipients, it is very humbling to be in their company and we are very grateful for the recognition.” That company, in addition to the aforementioned Spielberg and Rudin, includes Clint Eastwood, Billy Wilder, Jerry Bruckheimer, Kathleen Kennedy and John Lasseter.
They’ll be presented with the Selznick at the PGA’s awards ceremony on January 26.