Scripter Award honors 'Children'

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The author and the five credited screenwriters behind "Children of Men" were feted Sunday night at the 19th annual USC Scripter Award ceremony. British author P.D. James and scribes Alfonso Cuaron, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby were honored by the Friends of the USC Libraries for the best film adaptation of a book or novella, marking the first time that all the screenwriters were under one roof.

Cuaron, who also directed "Men," is no stranger to adaptations, as all his English-language films having been based on books, including "A Little Princess" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." During the awards presentation, he praised the screenwriters of those films, Richard Lagravanese and Steve Kloves.

"One thing I've learned from the two of them — and I became very aware of this while working on this adaptation — is what really matters is the (kind of) film you are trying to make," Cuaron said. "The other thing is fearlessness, and, at the end, that there are no rules."

Cuaron spoke of how the toughest part of the adaptation was setting up the film's universe, as he didn't want to make a sci fi movie, but rather a movie about the present. He listed numerous books and authors on topics such as population, the myth of progress, immigration, colonialism, dignity and the concept of Gaia that he and Sexton used as research to help create the film's environment.

"From the get-go, I was very interested in doing a film in which character and environment have the same weight. This environment was so important that we had to write a timeline from 2000-2027 that was going to tell us what happened to this planet Earth."

Cuaron revealed that the actors in film "pretty much rewrote each single sentence of their characters," and he culminated his thank you's by singling out three people.

"Their ideas, their emotions, their thoughts are present in every page of this script and every single frame of this film," he said. "I'm talking about Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and especially more than anyone else, who I consider to be a co-writer of this film, a co-filmmaker of this film, Clive Owen."

The evening, held in the historic Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library, also saw a video acceptance by 86-year old James, who was in London and unable to attend. Master of ceremonies Henry Winkler provided non sequitur humor, though it was grand master of ceremonies Hal Kanter that got some of the biggest laughs when referencing the movie.

"It compellingly creates a world gone mad that is uncomfortably close to the one we live in. I live in the Valley," Kanter said, pausing before continuing, "not far from Van Nuys High School. Where we see so many pregnant girls that I marvel at the writers who've made up a future that no one gets pregnant. Now that's powerful writing."
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