WGA Awards: What Happened at the Los Angeles Ceremony
Ben Affleck defended celebrities who fight for causes while Nic Pizzolatto paid tribute to other writers he met since arriving in Hollywood.
The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game both won awards at the 2015 Writer’s Guild Awards on Saturday night in Century City, gaining momentum toward winning at the Academy Awards as well.
The Grand Budapest Hotel was honored for the best original screenplay, written by Wes Anderson (who also directed) and Hugo Guinness.
Anderson accepted by recalling that the hotel where the awards were held, the Century Plaza, is on land that was once part of a movie studio (20th Century Fox); and is around the corner from where he used to live, write and work.
“I can think of no better place to accept,” said Anderson, “as Patricia Arquette called it, this gilded bird of prey [referring to the WGAW winners statuette]."
The Imitation Game also added to its growing list of honors by winning the award for best adapted screenplay. It was accepted by Graham Moore, who wrote the script based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.
Moore said the most important person is Turing, for whom they made the movie. “He was probably the greatest person of his generation,” said Moore, “and I’m a screenwriter from Chicago so it’s very strange to be on the stage where he should be. … I stand on his shoulders.”
On the TV side, it was a big night for True Detective, which was honored both as best drama series and best new series.
The writer, Nic Pizzolatto, accepted both awards. He called the win as best drama series — beating out Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, House of Cards and Mad Men — “shocking.”
In accepting the award for best new series, Pizzolatto paid tribute to the other writers he has met since arriving in Hollywood. “For an allegedly cold town,” said Pizzolatto, “since arriving here so many of my fellow writers and creators have shown me generosity and kindness and shared their experience with me. I’m just incredibly grateful for their camaraderie.”
The award for best episodic drama went to The Good Wife. Producers and writers Robert and Michelle King accepted and paid special thanks to CBS. “They’ve been amazing,” said Robert King, “kind of letting us do what we want.”
Louie, starring and written by Louis C.K. won twice, as best comedy series and as episodic comedy. Louis C.K. did not attend but his co-writer Pamela Adlon accepted (accompanied by her daughter on stage). “We’re always like nobody is going to like it,” said Adlon. “It’s surreal. ‘Let’s get in the bathtub and give them that.’ And somehow it all comes out.”
Among the honorary award winners, Ben Affleck easily won for the longest speech of the evening when he accepted the Valentine Davies Award. He was honored for his humanitarian efforts and service to the global community for his work in the Congo, where he created the Eastern Congo Initiative.
“People are often skeptical of celebrities who engage in philanthropic work,” said Affleck, adding: “And I used to be one of them.”
Affleck said “We need to come to grips with the media glamorizing celebrities every choice … every tweet. I find it disingenuous to give somebody a microphone and then tell them you don’t want to hear them talk.”
He said actors, writers, directors and others in Hollywood have “a tremendous amount to offer the world,” adding that “the facile objection to Hollywood — and once you say Hollywood everyone roles their eyes in agreement — is a little bit unfair. … Statistically it is harder to get a screenplay produced than to be a CEO in America.”
Shonda Rhimes was presented the 2015 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement. In presenting the award Scott Foley, one of the stars of her show Scandal, said “she paved the way for countless others and opened the eyes of those whose job it is to decide what we see on television.”
Rhimes said she has been doing TV for 12 years and she is still “amazed there is a job where I get to make stuff up for a living.”
She said that she likes it that women can be powerful. “I like that being powerful and bad ass,” said Rhimes, “is just my right. “
Rhimes paid credit to the many actors, producers, creators and crew it takes to make the three shows she currently has on the air. “Any writer who tells you its all them,” said Rhimes, “is either lying or saying a word I can’t say because my daughter is here.”
One of the most touching moments also came during acceptance of an honorary award.
Margaret Nagle received the 2015 Paul Selven Award for The Good Lie. The award is given to a writer whose script embodies the sprit of the Constitution and civil rights and liberties.
Nagle spent almost a decade bringing the story of the lost boys of South Sudan to the screen. She said it was put into turnaround at one point but she was able to revive the project thanks to a WGA rule, created by Selvin, that allowed her to get a free option for just long enough to get new financing and distribution.
Nagle lamented that her movie “did not get the release it deserved,” but said it is now being used by humanitarian and philanthropic groups to raise awareness and funds.
“Someone said this business is mean,” said Nagle, adding: “But we are writers and we are not mean. We are smart, we are funny, courageous. We can be assholes but we are not mean.”