Saturday night at the annual Producers Guild Awards, The Big Short was the surprise winner of the 26th annual Darryl F. Zanuck Award for the year’s Best Picture, stunning the tongue-tied producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner (fellow producer and co-winner Brad Pitt was not in attendance). Variety reported that Gardener and Kleiner “were clearly stunned in accepting the award without prepared remarks and both thanked director Adam McKay and Paramount profusely.”
The dramatic satire – which adapts Michael Lewis‘s non-fiction book about the housing crash and financial crisis of 2008 – beat out heavy favorites Spotlight (the year’s critical consensus) and The Revenant (the leading Academy Award nominee with 12, compared to 5 for The Big Short). The other seven films it beat out for the PGA’s top prize were Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, Sicario, and Straight Outta Compton. Winner for the Animated Feature prize was Pixar’s Inside Out, and Documentary went to the producing team of Amy (about the late singer Amy Winehouse).
This is the 2nd PGA win for the producing trio of Gardner, Kleiner, and Pitt. They won two years ago for 12 Years A Slave. Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the producer and director of The Revenant, won the Zanuck last year for co-producing Birdman.
So what does this mean for the Oscar race? If recent PGA history is any indication, The Big Short is going to be hard to beat. The Producers Guild winner has gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar for the past eight years, and has matched up 19 out of 26 times overall. The last time the Academy made a different choice was in 2006 when it awarded Martin Scorsese‘s The Departed after the PGA honored that year’s indie darling Little Miss Sunshine.
For the trajectory of the current Oscar race, two (and possibly three) major tea leaves remain. Right now, with the Producers win, The Big Short is the front-runner. If it picks up Best Cast from the Screen Actors Guild (their Best Picture equivalent), The Big Short shifts from front-runner to actual favorite. And then if Adam McKay pulls off the biggest upset of all by winning the Directors Guild top prize, The Big Short goes from favorite to lock.
The last time a movie won the PGA, DGA, and SAG awards and didn’t go on to win Best Picture was 20 years ago in 1995 when Apollo 13 won all 3 guild pre-cursors only to lose in a shocking upset to Braveheart. What Braveheart had going for it that year was that it led all films with the most Oscar nominations; that would bode well for The Revenant.
If The Big Short fails to win the SAG or DGA but picks up the Writers Guild trophy, then it would still have to be considered the prohibitive favorite. If it goes 4-for-4, start placing your bets. Or in this case, your shorts.
The Screen Actors Guild will hand out their awards Saturday evening, January 30th. The Directors Guild will follow a week later on Saturday, February 6th, and the Writers Guild a week after that on Saturday, February 13th.
To read a full list of 2016 PGA winners, including all television categories, visit the Producers Guild site here.