‘Schindler’s’ on WGA list

“Schindler’s List” and “The Piano” predictably led the list of Writers Guild of America best screenplay nominees announced Tuesday, but in a switch, the highly praised pix won’t be competing against each other.

“The Piano,” scripted and helmed by Jane Campion, got a nod for best original screenplay, while “Schindler’s List,” penned by Steven Zaillian and based on the novel by Thomas Keneally, was nominated for best script adapted from a previously published work.

Two comedies, “Dave” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” also surprised the industry, copping original screenplay noms after years of award oversights for comic scripts. The other original scripts are “Philadelphia” by Ron Nyswaner and “In the Line of Fire” by first-time scribbler Jeff Maguire.

Rounding out the based-on hopefuls are: “The Fugitive,” by Jeb Stuart and David Twohy, story by Twohy, based on characters created by Roy Huggins; “In the Name of the Father,” by Terry George and Jim Sheridan, based on the book “Proved Innocent” by Gerry Conlon; “The Joy Luck Club,” by Amy Tan and Ronald Bass, based on Tan’s novel; and “The Remains of the Day,” by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Among screenplays overlooked in the category was Zaillian’s other critically acclaimed script, for his directorial debut “Searching for Bobby Fischer.”

Both “Schindler’s” and “Piano” have forced split votes from various critics’ orgs that chose a best pic for 1993, but the WGA and the Oscar writing categories provide the only arenas in which the pix are not pitted directly against one another.

Some industryites predict that both are likely to carry their categories in the voting of some 2,500 WGA members.

While comedies usually have been shortchanged by Oscar and WGA voters, two laffers drew the voting respect of their peers: “Sleepless in Seattle,” by Nora Ephron, David S. Ward and Jeff Arch; and “Dave,” by Gary Ross.

“Sleepless” scripter Arch said he was “thrilled” by the WGA recognition, especially because comedies have such a poor track record for winning awards.

“Maybe comedies do have to be a cut above to get nominated,” Arch said. “Both of these movies (“Sleepless” and “Dave”) were about real people. They were not standard formula comedies.”

Two comedy scripts that didn’t make it were Randi Mayem Singer’s box office smash “Mrs. Doubtfire” and Woody Allen’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery.”

“Fugitive” writer Twohy, however, pointed out that action pictures are also excluded. “My one goal was to make a smart action picture to prove that action pictures don’t have to be dumb,” he said. “Lo and behold, it worked in this case.”

WGA West and East winners will get their awards at separate banquets in New York and Los Angeles March 13, alongside TV and radio award winners. Comic Paula Poundstone is slated to host the L.A. ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Ed Gustin will exec produce.

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