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The 2014 Writers Guild Awards were handed out Saturday night during simultaneous ceremonies in New York and L.A. On the film side, Her won the awards for best original screenplay, Captain Phillips won for adapted screenplay and Sarah Polley‘s Stories We Tell, left out of the Oscar documentary category, took home the award for best documentary screenplay.
On the TV side, Breaking Bad and Veep won best drama and comedy series honors, respectively, with the former show taking home an additional award for episodic drama and 30 Rock winning for episodic comedy. The Colbert Report won best comedy/variety series, while House of Cards won best new series.
The event came just hours after Woody Allen‘s adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, wrote an open letter published on the New York Times‘ website in which she detailed how the legendary writer-director sexually assaulted her when she was 7 years old. Allen was a best original screenplay nominee for Blue Jasmine.
WGAE president Michael Winship didn’t want to comment about Allen on the East Coast ceremony red carpet, and Sony Pictures Classics topper Michael Barker, who distributed Blue Jasmine, said “I have no knowledge of that. I don’t know anything about that,” when The Hollywood Reporter asked him about Farrow’s open letter.
But West Coast ceremony host Brad Garrett kicked off the show with a joke about the scandal, saying, “There is a very good chance Woody Allen won’t be here tonight, so those of you guys at the kids’ table tonight, you have nothing to worry about,” Garrett said. “Hey, we even put OshKosh B’gosh in the gift bag to get him here!”
East Coast host Colin Quinn, meanwhile, addressed a slightly older Woody Allen scandal: Mia Farrow‘s allegation that Frank Sinatra may be the biological father of her and Allen’s son Ronan Farrow.
“Blue Jasmine: Another autobiographical movie directed by Woody Allen, written by Frank Sinatra,” Quinn joked.
Quinn also went after the Super Bowl extravaganza on Broadway, joking, “I remember when a $5 toboggan ride meant a whole other thing in Times Square,” and Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm, who was caught on camera threatening a reporter after Tuesday’s State of the Union, “For anyone who’s not going to enjoy tonight, if I can quote the great Congressman Michael Grimm: ‘We will break you in half and throw you off the f—ing balcony.’ ”
He also took aim at Captain Phillips, pointing out the irony of seeing the message “Piracy is not a victimless crime” at the beginning of the film and saying of the name, “Boy, the guy who came up with that title really knows how to get the blood pulsing. They should call it f—ing ‘Larry Crowne on a cruise ship.’ “
Earlier Quinn told THR that he had no problem agreeing to the gig when he was initially asked but having to do it was another issue. “Two weeks ago, it sounded like a great idea,” he said. “Two weeks ago, I’m like, ‘Yeah, why not?’ Now, I’m like, ‘Jesus, I’ve gotta get my suit.’ I had to work on the script all week. Now, I’m ready.”
The West Coast ceremony offered equal parts emotional moments — honorees Garry Marshall, Paul Mazursky and terminally ill Simpsons writer Sam Simon all received standing ovations — and more than a few awkward ones courtesy of Garrett, whose zingers seemed to spare no one.
In addition to his Allen joke, Garrett compared Captain Phillips star Barkhad Abdi‘s mouth and teeth to those of a horse (twice) and tweaked the L.A. Times‘ livestream of the awards, for the “tens of people watching,” among other quips.
The ceremony, held inside at the downtown JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live, also drew buzzy actors like The Good Wife star Julianna Margulies and Parks and Recreation‘s Nick Offerman, in addition to awards-season contenders like American Hustle and Her producer Megan Ellison and Hustle director David O. Russell.
The biggest surprise of the night came when Captain Phillips scribe Billy Ray beat higher-profile competitors like The Wolf of Wall Street‘s Terence Winter for best adapted screenplay. Ray was clearly surprised by the win and offered a humbled response saying, “It was Captain Richard Phillips‘ story, I just wrote it down.” Ray also had someone read his speech at the East Coast ceremony.
The existence of two awards shows meant that some of the winners announced in New York weren’t available to accept their trophies at the Manhattan ceremony because they were attending in L.A.
Among those on hand for the New York ceremony were the writers of Veep, House of Cards, 30 Rock and The Colbert Report.
The Veep writers thanked the WGA, the city of Baltimore and the show’s cast and crew. House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, accepting the best new series trophy, remarked, “This kicks ass,” before he thanked Netflix, stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, Michael Dobbs, who wrote the novels the show is based on, and the WGA for allowing the show to be eligible for that award, pointing out that he didn’t know if that would be the case when he first started working on the show.
Earlier Willimon told THR on the red carpet at the East Coast ceremony that winning a WGA Award would be particularly meaningful to him. “I’m a writer, first and foremost, so I’m biased,” he said. “For me, it would be the highest honor, to be in any way recognized by your peers. The people who really know what it means to roll your sleeves up and try to make a story happen.”
However, he was unwilling to reveal any hints about House of Cards‘ second season, which hits Netflix on Valentine’s Day, nor would he talk about the possibility of seasons beyond the first two.
“Right now we’re just focusing on one season at a time,” he said. “So, let’s get to Valentine’s Day and get season two out into the world.”
Willimon also said onstage that he was given a choice by Netflix about whether to attend the East or West Coast ceremony, and he quickly chose New York.
Noting that he moved to New York 20 years ago, he said, “Are you kidding me? Do you think I want to look at a room full of sun-tans and kale crisps? I want to be with the real writers.” The East Coast-West Coast rivalry was a persistent theme during the New York ceremony, with the Manhattan crowd often booing announced winners who were attending the L.A. ceremony.
30 Rock‘s Robert Carlock, accepting the award for best episodic comedy for their episode “Hogcock,” first noted that the title of the show is actually a portmanteau of hogwash and poppycock. “It’s not referring to a pig’s genitals,” Carlock said. He also appreciated being acknowledged almost a year after the show aired its final episode on NBC.
“It’s so nice to be remembered,” he said. “It feels like we’ve been gone forever.”
The Colbert Report accepted the final award handed out at the East Coast ceremony, with writer Opus Moreschi speaking for the group, and acknowledging that he might be a bit tipsy. “We decided about a half an hour ago and four Manhattans ago that I would be speaking for everyone, so I apologize if I make no sense,” he began.
He then expounded on how the world of comedy and variety series has expanded from The Tonight Show and The Late Show With David Letterman to also include fellow nominees The Daily Show, Portlandia, Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Kimmel Live and Conan.
“It’s a world of wonderful, talented people, of which we are so happy to call ourselves part of,” Moreschi continued. “And most of all, Stephen [Colbert], who is an amazing person to write for. … I often get asked if we all sit around a table all day and laugh and what I tell them is, ‘We don’t sit around a table.’ Thank you everybody and I hope I wasn’t too embarrassing.”
At the New York ceremony, previously announced awards were also presented to The Wire and Treme creator David Simon, Focus Features co-founder James Schamus and longtime 1010 WINS editor Philip V. Pilato.
Wendell Pierce presented Simon with the Ian McClellan Hunter Award for Career Achievement, telling Simon, whom he worked with on The Wire and Treme, “I have worked with you for nearly 13 years; you’ve changed my career and more importantly, you’ve changed my life. When I studied at Juilliard, I could only hope that I’d create with someone like you.”
Simon began his speech by pointing out that it was odd he was receiving a career achievement award at 53. “You motherf—ers think I’m gonna die, or you saw Treme‘s numbers and you think, ‘That’s it,’ ” he said. Simon went on to thank the WGA and Tom Fontana, who inspired him to create the kind of TV shows he made, and gave a brief shout-out to his late friend David Mills. He also thanked his agent, John Campisi at CAA, who’s been with him for 20 years.
“This guy doesn’t sell. It’s one thing if you’re selling television that people actually watch, but this poor bastard, for a decade now, has been going back to the well and getting money for TV that nobody watches,” Simon explained.
Simon also noted that Pierce has become somewhat of his good-luck charm, so he’s trying to find a way to cast him in his upcoming miniseries on the life of Mussolini.
Both Simon and Schamus received standing ovations, cheers and enthusiastic applause from the audience in New York’s Edison Ballroom.
Schamus, who was fired as CEO of Focus Features in October, didn’t acknowledge his ouster from the Universal specialty division, but the award-winning screenwriter did talk about the life of a writer and the fact that he was being recognized for bringing honor and dignity to writers.
“Writers, as writers, are in no particular need of honor or dignity. Indeed, the best among us have often been undignified and vaguely dishonorable,” Schamus said. “Tonight, I say to hell with your honor and dignity. Indeed, the honor tonight is all mine because this award was given to me by the union and made possible by the union so it is you who bring honor and dignity to me. For that, I will be forever grateful.”
Pilato accepted the Richard B. Jablow award, talking about how battling cancer didn’t change his commitment to fight for writers. He also urged attendees to get more active in the guild “because the only way we can get better conditions for writers is if we fight together as one union.”
“To paraphrase John Kennedy: Ask not what your guild can do for you, ask what you can do for your fellow writers,” he said.
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