The movie, which also stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and Ryan Gosling, beat awards season favourites including The Revenant, Spotlight, and The Martian to claim the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures for Pitt, Jeremy Kleiner and Dede Gardner.

Saturday's (23Jan16) surprise win places The Big Short on course to cause a major upset at the Academy Awards next month (Feb16), as the Darryl F. Zanuck Award recipient typically goes on to land the coveted Best Picture honour at Hollywood's big night - as Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman did last year (15).

The last time the PGA's top pick failed to replicate its success at the Oscars was in 2006, when The Departed beat the Darryl F. Zanuck Award winner Little Miss Sunshine to Oscars glory.

Pitt was not in attendance at the Los Angeles ceremony, but a stunned Kleiner and Gardner, who had not prepared an acceptance speech, used their time in the spotlight to address "the elephant in the room" and address the diversity controversy surrounding the Academy Awards after no minority actors were nominated for the top acting categories for the second year in a row.

Gardner told the crowd, "We have privilege in our hands as storytellers. We need to tell stories that reflect our world on every street corner."

Meanwhile, Inside Out won the Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Picture title for Jonas Rivera, and Amy, about the life of tragic singer Amy Winehouse, scored the documentary accolade for James Gay-Rees.

In the TV categories, Fargo was named the winner of the David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television for the second consecutive year, Game of Thrones took home the Norman Felton Award for best drama series, and Transparent won the Danny Thomas Award for top comedy series.

Other honourees included Harry Potter producer David Heyman, who was presented with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award by Gary Oldman, Viola Davis celebrated Shonda Rhimes' success by gifting her the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television, and Ridley Scott was on hand to praise Jim Gianopulos with the Milestone Award.

Lady Gaga also staged a rare performance of her Oscar-nominated track Til It Happens to You, from college sex assault documentary The Hunting Ground, as producer Amy Ziering was given the honorary Stanley Kramer Award for raising awareness of pressing social issues.