- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Tumblr
Spotlight and The Big Short continued to collect awards on Saturday night, with the Oscar front-runners winning best original and adapted screenplay honors at the Writers Guild Awards, which were handed out at simultaneous ceremonies in Los Angeles and New York.
In a break from tradition and the normal flow of an awards show in which the bigger awards are presented at the end, the best original screenplay prize was presented at the top of the WGA, East ceremony in New York's Edison Ballroom, even before host Michael Ian Black's monologue, since, as presenter Bob Balaban noted, a number of the nominees in that category had to leave early to fly to London for Sunday's BAFTA Awards.
Spotlight co-writer Tom McCarthy accepted the award, remarking as he took the stage, "I didn't even have a chance to finish my first cocktail," before launching into his thank-yous. McCarthy praised Open Road for letting him and co-writer Josh Singer "make exactly the movie that we wrote." He also thanked the pic's "super terrific" cast, joking that John Slattery, the only cast member in attendance at the New York ceremony, is his "favorite." McCarthy, who also directed the film, praised Singer as "the much bigger, better and brighter part of my brain. A man who's probably a better human being than he is writer and I probably really couldn't have achieved this without him," noting that Singer's "in L.A. with all the fancy people." He also said that he couldn't have made the film without the collaboration and cooperation of the reporters and editors depicted in the film and the survivors of abuse and those who've come out recently and shared their stories.
Accepting the award at the WGA, West ceremony in Los Angeles, Singer also acknowledged the victims and journalists at the center of his movie’s real-life story of the Boston Globe’s investigative team that uncovered the Catholic Church’s cover up of priest sexual abuse.
The adapted screenplay award was presented later in the evening and Adepero Oduye, who plays Kathy Tao in The Big Short, accepted the award in New York. In L.A., The Big Short writer-director Adam McKay spoke of the millions of people depicted in his film who lost their homes in the Great Recession.
But those somber moments were just part of a two-hour awards show at the Hyatt Century Plaza that featured writers doing what they seem to do best — saying funny things, often at their own expense.
Screenwriter/director/actress Elaine May (Primary Colors, Heaven Can Wait), recipient of the Screen Laurel Award, which was presented to her by Robert Towne, claimed that she had expected “a lot of writers at a restaurant bitterly complaining about everything,” not an actual awards show at a hotel ballroom, then broke up the crowd when she expressed amazement at the ceremony’s red carpet.
“No designer is going to give a writer clothes,” she declared. Never mind that it was a red carpet in a hotel conference room — it was, nonetheless, a red carpet, featuring such notables as the nominated writers, actors including Dana Delany and Jeffrey Tambor, and at least one director, DGA president Paris Barclay.
Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), appearing as a presenter, struck a similar note, saying that his career transition from writer to actor meant “I traded my self-hatred in for self-love.”
WGA West president Howard Rodman struck a more optimistic note, honoring the writers who came before and saying, “Your guild protects your bank account, but it also protects your right to imagine without fear.”
He also gave a shout-out for diversity, saying, “Let’s lean in on networks and studios until diversity is the norm.” But a video montage introduced by actor Keegan-Michael Key acknowledged that diversity hasn’t been a hallmark of the WGA Awards themselves: the presentation announced a list of the African-Americans winners of past WGA screenplay awards, then showed all one of them, Richard Pryor (1974’s Blazing Saddles), before cutting to a card reading “The End.”
After being snubbed by the Oscars, Going Clear won the WGA award for best documentary screenplay, with writer Alex Gibney accepting the honor and calling out the Church of Scientology in his speech, noting that the film is a writer's movie because "L. Ron Hubbard set the Guinness Book of World Records for, I think, the most published works ever … He had a fevered imagination which allowed him to translate the desire for making money and avoiding taxes into a religion."
Gibney continued: "It's also a writer's movie in the sense that I stood on the broad shoulders of Lawrence Wright, the great Pulitzer Prize-winning author who wrote [the book] Going Clear, and there are a number of [people] in the legal office at HBO who responded to an avalanche of threatening letters from Scientology. The word was that there were 150 lawyers. That was, as they say in the business, a fact too good to check. There were, in fact, only four, but their job was full time and honestly I wouldn't be here tonight if they hadn't backed me up to the fullest in terms of resisting the litigious might of the Church of Scientology. The other thing I should say is whenever you're trying to speak truth to power, at least when you're a filmmaker, you rely a lot on the people who speak the truth and you try to amplify them. So this award is dedicated to them, the people who were willing to speak up against the human-rights abuses, including our fellow [WGA] member Paul Haggis and many other people who said enough is enough."
On the TV side, Mad Men and Veep won the top prizes, for best drama and comedy series, respectively, with the writing team behind Mr. Robot winning the award for best new series. On the red carpet before the ceremony in New York, creator Sam Esmail said he didn't anticipate the USA show becoming a big hit.
"The best I hoped for was that it would be this small cult hit," said Esmail. "I thought the show was pretty unusual. It was about the obscure world of hacking, and I really didn't think it would go as mainstream as it did, so this was all unexpected and obviously a pleasant surprise."
When asked what it means to win a Writers Guild award, Esmail said, "To me, writing is like the most intimidating thing you could do in all of filmmaking. You're staring at a blank page and creating material from scratch."
Also in New York, Richard LaGravenese accepted the Ian McClellan Hunter award for career achievement in writing from Scandal's Tony Goldwyn; Sen. Al Franken accepted the Evelyn F. Burkey Award, presented by Alan Zweibel; and a few more special awards were handed out.
At the Los Angeles ceremony, Friends stars Matt LeBlanc and Courteney Cox presented the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television to that show's creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane. Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof presented the Valentine Davis Award to screenwriter John August for his humanitarian efforts and civic service. Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb presented the Morgan Cox Award to Arthur Sellers for his guild service. And Diane Lane was on hand to give the Paul Selvin Award to John McNamara for his screenplay for Trumbo.
In Los Angeles, the evening opened with a video claiming that the awards were being telecast on the Golf Channel, which seemed unlikely and set the tone for the evening. Host Patton Oswalt then acknowledged the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who he said was “born in 1936 and stayed there.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day