Eclectic Pic Mix Makes The Writers Guild Grade

Provocative even when it dishes out prizes, the Writers Guild of America has nominated a strange brew of quirky and independent candidates for its 47th annual scripting awards.

For best original screenplay, the scribbler membership opted for: Gramercy Pictures’ “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” written by Stephan Elliott; Miramax Films’ “Bullets Over Broadway,” by Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath; Touchstone Pictures’ “Ed Wood,” by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski; Gramercy’s “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” by Richard Curtis; and Miramax’s “Heavenly Creatures,” by Frances Walsh and Peter Jackson.

Four of those pix were from independents, and three of the four were foreign-made. Only “Ed Wood” hailed from a studio (Disney), and it was hardly a mainstream picture.

Industry watchers were surprised by the diversity of the nods, especially the inclusion of “Ed Wood.”

“There were a surprising number of foreign pictures this year, but maybe that’s simply because they were the best ones out there,” said one studio exec.

For screenplays based on already published work, the WGA took the more well-trodden studio path. It nominated Paramount Pictures’ “Forrest Gump,” written by Eric Roth; Columbia Pictures’ “Little Women,” by Robin Swicord; Samuel Goldwyn’s “The Madness of King George,” by Alan Bennett; Hollywood Pictures’ “Quiz Show,” by Paul Attanasio; and Castle Rock Entertainment’s “The Shawshank Redemption,” by Frank Darabont

No real surprises there, save perhaps the omission of Robert Benton’s “Nobody’s Fool.”

The awards are usually pretty good predictors of the Oscar noms, which will be announced Feb. 14, but this year’s crop seems particularly sophisticated, and Oscar voters often laud more mainstream fare.

Swicord, a first-time nominee for “Little Women” and the only woman nominated in either category, said it felt “great” to get the nod. But she called the whole process more of a “popularity contest.”

“When people vote, they vote for the movies they liked,” she said. “It really comes down to a highbrow popularity contest.”

Attanasio (“Quiz Show”), previously a WGA nominee for the pilot episode of “Homicide: Life on the Street,” took a different view. He said the awards are a pleasant change from the typical profits-oriented mentality that pervades Hollywood.

“It’s this sanctuary from the relentless pressure for blockbusters,” he said. “If you look at the field, they’re all wonderful movies. That’s what this is about, pure and simple.”

Winners of the screen awards, along with the TV and radio awards, will be announced March 19 at ceremonies on both coasts. In L.A., the festivities will take place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. In New York, the guild dinner will take place at the Tavern on the Green.

“It will be a night of writers celebrating the work of other writers,” Attanasio said. “Then there are the other 364 nights of studios celebrating their grosses, or mourning them. It’s nice that these things are around.”

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