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It was a big night at the Writers Guild of America Awards for the films Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Eighth Grade, the television series Barry, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Americans and The Assassination of Gianni Versace; and, though he wasn't nominated in any category, actor-director Ron Howard.
With a week remaining before the Academy Awards signal the end of the awards season, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty claimed the WGA's trophy for adapted screenplay for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, based on the memoir of the dissembling author Lee Israel, while writer-director Bo Burnham's middle school dramedy Eighth Grade took the honors for original screenplay.
Television trophies went to a string of series that have been frequently honored over the past several months, including FX's spy family drama The Americans, earning the drama series honor for its final season; Amazon's retro darling The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for comedy series; FX's true-crime limited series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story for adapted longform series; and Hulu's Stephen King-inspired thriller Castle Rock for original longform series. Also faring well was HBO's hitman comedy Barry, garnering both the new series and episodic comedy trophies.
As Chelsea Peretti took the podium to host the West Coast ceremony, she started with the kind of knowing self-deprecation Hollywood scribes have become known for, characterizing the gala as having, she offered, "all the glitz and glamour of the Oscars without the pressure of public interest."
"I've been going to so many Hollywood parties, it's refreshing to just look out and remember what regular people look like," Peretti quipped. Indeed, even the evening's biggest winners lived up to the writers' slightly left-of-the-limelight reputation, with a litany of honorees, including Bill Hader to Adam McKay, offering worshipful onstage shout-outs to Howard, who sat stage-side in L.A. awaiting his turn to pay tribute to his frequent screenwriting duo Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Happy Days, Night Shift, Splash, Parenthood, as well as films like A League of Their Own and City Slickers), who received the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement.
"That's been very, very flattering, I have to admit," said Howard when he finally took the stage, likening the experience to seeing the many A-list actors caught on camera in the Academy Awards audience."[But] this is the WGA — you get Ron Howard."
In addition to Ganz and Mandel, the West Coast edition of the awards' other distinctive honorees included writer-director McKay, who received the Paul Selvin Award for his satirical but socially relevant work on Vice; French filmmaker Agnès Varda, who received the Jean Renoir Award for International Screenwriting Achievement; Joan Meyerson, the writer regularly behind the PBS' annually televised National Memorial Day Concert, who received the Morgan Cox Award for her guild service; and showrunner Jenji Kohan, who received the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement for her game-changing work on series including Weeds, Orange Is the New Black and GLOW.
WGAW president David Goodman addressed the audience midway through the L.A. ceremony, noting that "50 percent" of the WGAW board are women, and acknowledged the #MeToo movement, saying: "Our cynicism should temper our hope, but not replace it."
In New York, host Roy Wood Jr. (The Daily Show With Trevor Noah) opened his monologue by introducing himself in an industry-friendly way, joking that he was "hired as a package deal with the caterer and the DJ. We have the same agent. Don't you just love packaging?"
With that, he segued into the WGA's negotiations with Association of Talent Agents and jokingly urged the guild to follow President Trump's lead in negotiating.
"There's a great book that I want to recommend to you. It's called The Art of the Deal. A brilliant author, an amazing author," he joked. "I want you to negotiate with the agents the same way our government has negotiated recently with the Democrats. I want you to stand your ground on the funding you need. If you don't get the funding you need, then you shut down all work, and then return to work and agree to a deal that gets you less money than you would've gotten had you not stopped working in the first place."
He also poked fun at recent political missteps, quipping that the WGA "knew by hiring me there'd be no blackface scandal." And he took aim at Netflix (which "connects storytellers with who knows how many people. Seriously who knows? Netflix wont tell us the ratings"), Amazon ("didn't just cancel shows, they canceled Long Island City") and nominees like If Beale Street Could Talk, Green Book ("about the first racist Uber driver"), A Quiet Place and the man who directed and starred in the final film, John Krasinski.
Marveling at Krasinski's ability to be "funny on The Office, scary in A Quiet Place and sexy in Jack Ryan," Wood Jr. said such a "rare" trifecta should be called a "Krasinski," which he argued "makes an EGOT look like a participation trophy."
Later, Julianna Margulies detailed her 25-year friendship with Tom Fontana as she presented the Oz creator with the Ian McLellan Hunter award for career achievement. Margulies explained that she marveled at his reported 35 Emmy nominations, with Fontana telling her that couldn't confirm that number because he'd lost count. She revealed that he went to bat for her when, prior to ER, she appeared in a pilot for him that prompted ABC to claim that he couldn't cast her as an American nurse. And she recounted how one Sunday morning while working 70-hour weeks for ER, she sat through mass waiting for him to arrive to present him with another award.
Also in New York, Black List founder Franklin Leonard received the Evelyn F. Burkey award, presented by former Focus Features chief James Schamus.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter before the ceremony, Leonard indicated he was truly grateful for the recognition.
"I've always thought of it as the biggest honor of my career to support writers, so to have them think that I have been helpful is definitely the greatest honor of my life," he told THR. "It feels a bit like a dream."
He echoed these same thoughts about appreciating that he'd been helpful to writers onstage — accepting the award after Schamus' introduction and a video tribute featuring JJ Abrams, Chris Terrio and Lena Waithe — and urged the assembled writers to "do more."
"I ask you to tell the stories of people whose stories have not yet been told: The women, the people of color, the poor, the gay, the trans, the people who are all of the above. Find other writers who can and will do so and give them what they need to have so that they can be in this room nominated for the awards that you're nominated for and winning the awards you're receiving tonight," Leonard told the audience. "It is good for business. It is good for the culture and it is good for the world. You writers are the only ones who can. Whatever happens, I and the Black List will be here to help."
A full list of winners follows.
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