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The WGA shone a bright light on “Little Miss Sunshine” on Sunday night, bestowing upon the indie comedy its best original screenplay award, while Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” grabbed best adapted screenplay laurels to maintain its own Oscar momentum.
“Sunshine,” a Fox Searchlight release written by Michael Arndt, overcame fellow category nominees “Babel,” “The Queen,” “Stranger Than Fiction” and “United 93.” “Departed” — a Warner Bros. Pictures release with a screenplay by William Monahan and based on the motion picture “Infernal Affairs” (written by Alan Mak and Felix Chong) — bested “Borat,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Little Children” and “Thank You for Smoking.”
Arndt thanked his agent and producers for helping him achieve “the screenwriters’ dream of seeing their words up on the screen uncompromised and undiluted.”
In Oscar’s original screenplay category, “Sunshine” is going against a similar field but with “Letters From Iwo Jima” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” subbing for “Stranger” and “United 93.” Academy voters also will select from an adapted screenplay field in which “Departed” squares off against similar movies as figured in the WGA’s same category but with “Notes on a Scandal” replacing “Prada.”
The WGA held simultaneous ceremonies at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City and at the Hudson Theatre of the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York. Writer-actor Robert Wuhl presided at the WGA West’s gala and actress-writer Tina Fey at the WGA East event.
At least a couple of the studio executives sprinkled throughout the Century City audience wondered whether any of the speakers would mention the WGA’s impending talks for a new film and television contract, which expires in October. They didn’t have long to wait.
In his welcoming remarks, WGAW president Patric Verrone joked that he would not subject the crowd to long speeches about “the guild’s determination to work with our sister unions to preserve health and pension benefits,” but then he went on in rapid-fire fashion to list other issues like new-media compensation that would figure in the talks. He also made a point of noting that the executive directors of the WGA, SAG and the DGA were on hand and seated together.
But the remarks served more as comic relief than a call to action. “There will be plenty of time for rambling diatribes at our town hall meetings once negotiations start,” Verrone added.
Verrone also trumpeted a previously unannounced honorary award, bestowing the 2007 Robert Meltzer Award, to 12 former writer-producers of “America’s Next Top Model.” The WGAW president said the dozen were being lauded for “bravery” in striking the reality program in an unsuccessful bid to gain WGA union status.
Kicking off the jam-packed New York event, WGA East president Chris Albers welcomed the writers from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” as new members of the guild and adressed concerns about a strike, saying continuing media coverage has created fears way ahead of time.
“There’s absolutely no reason to have a strike,” he said. “There is plenty of time” to work out a solution that satisfies both sides, he added.
Albers joked that even should there be a strike, “we’ll still find a way to honor ourselves” next year.
Fey also referenced the strike, quipping she could use a few weeks off: “Bring it on! I am very tired,” she said.
The WGA presented several special awards.
Author Joan Didion received the WGAE’s Evelyn F. Burkey Award for “contributions that have brought honor and dignity to writers everywhere.” Writer-producer John Wells was honored with the Paddy Chayefsky Television Laurel for “advancing the literature of television and (making) outstanding contributions to the profession of television writer.”
Screenwriter Robert Benton received the Screen Laurel Award for “advancing the literature of the motion picture and (making) contributions to the profession of the screenwriter.” Television producer Lorne Michaels was honored with the WGAE Herb Sargent Award for Comedy Excellence.
Hollywood and Broadway comedy writer Andrew Bergman was given the WGA East’s Ian McLellan Hunter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Writing. Film and TV writer Larry Gelbart received the WGAW’s Valentine Davies Award for contributions to the industry and community.
The late film and TV writer Daryl G. Nickens was honored with the Morgan Cox Honorary Service Award for “vital ideas (and) personal sacrifice.” And WGAE secretary-treasurer Gail Lee received the Richard B. Jablow Award for devoted service to the guild.
Georg Szalai contributed to this report.
A complete list of the announced winners follows:
“Little Miss Sunshine,” writer: Michael Arndt, Fox Searchlight Pictures
“The Departed,” Screenwriter: William Monahan; based on the film “Infernal Affairs,” writer: Alan Mak and Felix Chong, Warner Bros. Pictures
“Deliver Us From Evil,” writer: Amy Berg, Lionsgate Entertainment
“The Sopranos,” writers: Mitchell Burgess, David Chase, Diane Frolov, Robin Green, Andrew Schneider, Matthew Weiner, Terence Winter; HBO
“The Office,” writers: Steve Carell, Jennifer Celotta, Greg Daniels, Lee Eisenberg, Brent Forrester, Ricky Gervais, Mindy Kaling, Paul Lieberstein, Stephen Merchant, B.J. Novak, Michael Schur, Gene Stupnitsky; NBC
“Ugly Betty,” writers: Veronica Becker, Oliver Goldstick, Silvio Horta, Sarah Kucserka, Sheila Lawrence, Cameron Litvack, Myra Jo Martino, Jim Parriott, Marco Pennette, Dailyn Rodriguez, Don Todd; ABC
Episodic Drama –Any Length, One Airing Time
“Big Love (Pilot),” writers Mark V. Olsen & Will Scheffer; HBO
Episodic Comedy –Any Length, One Airing Time
“The Office (Casino Night),” writer: Steve Carell; NBC
Longform — Original, Over One Hour, One Or Two Parts, One Or Two Airing Times
“Flight 93,” writer: Nevin Schreiner; A&E
Animation — Any Length, One Airing Time
“The Simpsons (The Italian Bob),” Writer: John Frink; Fox
Comedy/Variety — Music, Awards, Tributes, Specials, Any Length
“The National Memorial Day Concert,” Writer: Joan Meyerson; PBS
Comedy/Variety (Including Talk) Series
“Saturday Night Live,” head writers: Tina Fey, Seth Meyers, Andrew Steele; writers: Doug Abeles, James Anderson, Alex Baze, Liz Cackowski, Charlie Grandy, Steve Higgins, Colin Jost, Erik Kenward, John Lutz, Lorne Michaels, Matt Murray, Paula Pell, Akiva Schaffer, Frank Sebastiano, T. Sean Shannon, Robert Smigel, JB Smoove, Emily Spivey, Jorma Taccone, Bryan Tucker; additional sketches: Mike Schwartz, Kristin Gore; NBC
“As the World Turns,” writers: Jean Passanante, Leah Laiman, Christopher Whitesell, Courtney Simon, Anna Cascio, Lisa Connor, Paula Cwikly, Hogan Sheffer, Judy Tate, Bettina Bradbury, Richard Culliton, Susan Dansby, Judy Donato, Josh Griffith, Elizabeth Page, Melissa Salmons, Charlotte Gibson; CBS
Children’s Episodic & Specials
“Just for Kicks (Premiere),” writer: Alana Sanko; Nickelodeon
Documentary — Current Events
“The Dark Side,” writer: Michael Kirk; PBS Frontline
Documentary — Other Than Current Events
“Marie Antoinette,” writer: David Grubin; PBS
News — Regularly Scheduled, Bulletin Or Breaking Report
“Remembering Lou Rawls,” writer: Jonathan Kaplan; CBS News
News – Analysis, Feature, Or Commentary
“America’s Investigative Reports, Crisis Mismanagement,” writer: Tom Jennings; PBS
News — Regularly Scheduled
“World News This Week,” writer: Jeffrey Veatch; ABC
News — Analysis, Feature Or Commentary
“America’s Heroes: Triumph And Inspiration,” writer: Stu Chamberlain; ABC
Promotion Writing And Graphic Art
On-Air Promotion (Radio Or Television)
“A Playwright’s Genius, Enter the New World, Inside Law & Order, My Grandmother’s Garden,The Quill Awards: Write It Down, The Russians are Coming,” writer: Michelle Straebler; WNBC
Television Graphic Art
“Courtroom Sketching,” William J. Hennessy Jr.; ABC
Television Graphic Animation
“Saturday Early Show,” Monica Dinatale Eureyecko; CBS
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