Fine epilogue to WGA West season of nods


The WGA West celebrated many things Wednesday at a downtown luncheon: the end of the strike, its 75th anniversary and the guild members who received WGA Awards and lifetime achievement honors this season.

Among the honorees were the scribes who won annual guild awards for their work this past year in TV and film but who missed out on the party when the WGA elected to not have a ceremony because of the strike.

WGAW president Patric Verrone joked with the winners, telling them to stand, hold up their statue and repeat: "Oh, it's so heavy. This is completely unexpected. This was a total team effort. I want to thank my agent, life partner and HBO executives."

But the afternoon belonged to the WGAW's lifetime honorees: David Chase, Budd Schulberg, Robert Eisele and Jeffrey Porro, Brad Bird, Tom Schulman and Don M. Mankiewicz.

Receiving two standing ovations, Schulberg, 94, who received the Screen Laurel Award, recalled a time "when it was dangerous to be a member of the Writers Guild. That doesn't seem possible now, but there was as time when (Irving) Thalberg and the moguls were so oppressive, you had to join the guild secretly."

Two-time Oscar winner Bird joked that it was too early in his career to receive his honor, the AWC Animation Writing Award, and suggested calling it the "So Far, So Good Award" or the "Worth Keeping an Eye on Award."

Chase, who received the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television, made it a point to thank his fellow writers on "The Sopranos" who he felt never received the acknowledgment they deserved, including Terence Winter, Matthew Weiner, Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider.

"They've never been acknowledged by many of the people who said their words, and I don't know why," Chase said.

Nate Parker, who starred in the "The Great Debaters," spoke of how that film's script changed his life. He then introduced the film's writers, Eisele and Porro, who received the Paul Selvin Award.

"It was the greatest piece of literature in my life," Parker said. "I laughed and cried. I felt whoever wrote this is connected, and I want to be part of it."

Mankiewicz was honored with the Morgan Cox Award for his half-century of service to the guild, telling the audience, "In the year to come, I will come to feel I deserve this award."

Instead of a full speech, Schulman, who was honored with the Valentine Davies Award, opted to show a "lost reel" of Davies, who won an Oscar in 1947 for "Miracle on 34th Street" and died in 1961. The spoof featured a faux Davies making some off-color remarks and claiming to have rewritten other Oscar-winning scripts, including "Casablanca" and "On the Waterfront" (which Schulberg won for in 1955).