“Gosford Park” and “A Beautiful Mind,” a pair of complex character-driven explorations, took top screenwriting honors Saturday from the Writers Guild of America.
The victories rep a major boost to Julian Fellowes’ chances for the original screenplay Oscar for USA Films’ dark comedy “Gosford Park” and Akiva Goldsman’s for adapted script for U’s drama “A Beautiful Mind.”
The screenwriting awards, based on voting by the 11,500 WGA members, capped simultaneous ceremonies Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton and the Pierre Hotel in Gotham.
“What I feel is that I was standing in a farmyard in Kansas two years ago and a tornado came and blew me to the land of Oz,” Fellowes said in his acceptance. “That tornado, of course, was (director and producer) Robert Altman, who played the double role of the wizard who made everything happen.”
Goldsman stressed that his key goal in adapting Sylvia Nasar’s bio of John Forbes Nash had been to bring about a better understanding of schizophrenia. He also lavished praise on Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Nash, asserting, “We actually got a genius to play a genius.”
Fellowes’ re-creation of ’30s British aristocrats and servants has also won screenplay kudos from the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle. He topped Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (“The Man Who Wasn’t There”); Milo Addica and Will Rokos (“Monster’s Ball”); Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce (“Moulin Rouge”); and Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson (“The Royal Tenenbaums”).
Thesp-turned-scripter Fellowes noted that “Gosford Park” is his first produced screenplay and added a note of encouragement to fellow writers: “It’s taken me to the Oscar carpet at the age of 52. Don’t give up. It can still happen.”
Goldsman, who previously won a Golden Globe, effusively thanked top execs at U, Imagine and DreamWorks. He topped Ken Nolan (“Black Hawk Down”); Helen Fielding, Andrew Davies and Richard Curtis (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”); Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff (“Ghost World”); and Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings”).
The WGA’s pick has matched the Oscar winner in one of the two categories in each of the last three years. The WGA tapped “You Can Count on Me” last year for original screenplay, while the Academy selected “Almost Famous.” “Traffic” won both adapted screenplay awards.
“American Beauty” took both trophies for original screenplay two years ago, while “Election” won the WGA award for adapted screenplay, and “The Cider House Rules” took the Oscar in that category. “ShakespeareiIn Love” won the WGA and Oscar three years ago for original, while “Out of Sight” won the WGA trophy for adapted screenplay and “Gods and Monsters” took the Oscar in that category.
Supplying levity were emcees Jeffrey Ross (“Watching Ellie”) in the West and Mort Sahl in the East; Sahl quipped at one point, “We’re going to keep going until the Fox Network gets an award.” Harlan Ellison also took a comedic turn: Presenting Christopher Knopf with the Edmond H. North Award for service to WGA, Ellison wore a bathrobe and ascot — explaining he was adhering to the request for “business attire.”
Both ceremonies also featured deeply serious moments. The WGA West presented its Valentine Davies Award to David Angell posthumously, noting that Angell had died in one of the hijacked planes on Sept. 11; the East Coast ceremony got off to a somber start with acknowledgments of the events of Sept. 11 (the 1999 ceremony had been held at Windows on the World) and for the 10 journalists who have lost their lives since then.
HBO’s “The Sopranos” and CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond” won the TV episodic drama and comedy awards, respectively. WGA voters tapped the “Pine Barrens” episode of “The Sopranos” from Terence Winter’s teleplay and the story by Winter and Tim Van Patten, winning over two other episodes of “The Sopranos,” a pair of “The West Wing” episodes and a single episode of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” “The West Wing” won last year, and “The Sopranos” won in 2000.
In Gotham, presenter James Gandolfini stumbled on the pronunciation of the name of “Sopranos” scribe Mitchell Burgess, when reading the episodic drama nominees, and then panicked, “Man, I can’t believe I blew that. There goes my job.”
“Everybody Loves Raymond” won for the “Italy, Parts 1 & 2” episode written by Philip Rosenthal, who thanked his family for providing him with comic material, such as his father telling him recently, “Good luck with the Wiggas.”
“Raymond” topped two episodes of “Sex and the City,” two of “Malcolm in the Middle” and a single seg of “Titus.” “Frasier,” which was shut out of noms this year, had won the three previous awards.
HBO’s “Conspiracy,” written by Loring Mandel, won the award for original longform. Kirk Ellis’ teleplay for ABC’s “Anne Frank,” based on the book by Melissa Muller, won adapted longform.
Ellis paid tribute to the subject of his teleplay, saying, “If Anne Frank were here today, as she should be, one of us, a member of the WGA, winning awards, I think she would say that we must cherish our liberties. We must be vigilant against their restrictions, and we must never ever forget.”
Perhaps the most popular award was the Screen Laurel kudos given to Blake Edwards for lifetime achievement, who responded by saying, “There was one award that I secretly coveted above all the others, and I am getting it tonight.”
Stephen Schiff, who received the Richard B. Jablow Award for service to the WGA East, told the crowd he was just doing his job, and pointed out that by working for the guild, he achieved what every writer strives for — “an excuse to avoid writing.”
Comedy/variety — music, awards, tributes: CBS’ “The Kennedy Center Honors” by Don Baer and George Stevens Jr., film sequences by Sara Lukinson and Harry Miles Muheim.
Comedy/variety — (including talk) series: NBC’s “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” by Mike Sweeney, Chris Albers, Ellen Barancik, Andy Blitz, Kevin Dorff, Jonathan Glaser, Michael Gordon, Brian Kiley, Michael Koman, Brian McCann, Guy Nicolucci, Conan O’Brien, Andrew Secunda, Robert Smigel, Brian Stack, Andrew Weinberg.
Daytime serials: ABC’s “All My Children” by Agnes Nixon, Jean Passanante, Craig Carlson, Frederick Johnson, N. Gail Lawrence, Victor Miller, Juliet Law Packer, Addie Walsh, Mimi Leahey, Bettina F. Bradbury, Charlotte Gibson, David Hiltbrand, Janet Iacobuzio, Royal Miller, John Piroman, Rebecca Taylor, Neal Bell.
Children’s script: Showtime’s “My Louisiana Sky” by Anna Sandor.
Documentary — current events: PBS’ “Drug Wars, Part 2 (Frontline)” by Lowell Bergman & Kenneth Levis and Doug Hamilton & Orianna Gill.
Documentary — other than current events: PBS’ “Hitler’s Lost Sub (Nova)” by Rusmore DeNooyer tied with PBS’ “Scottsboro, An American Tragedy (The American Experience)” by Barka Goodman.
News — regularly scheduled, bulletin or breaking report: CBS-TV’s “Wedding Disaster” by Jonathan Kaplan.
News — analysis, feature or commentary: CBS-TV’s “The Cruelty Connection” by Jonathan Kaplan.
Radio documentary: CBS’ “Eye on Death Row” by Wendy Zentz.
News — regularly scheduled: CBS’ “The Recount” by Paul Farry.
News — analysis, feature or commentary: ABC’s “Preserving American Sound (Perspective)” by Scott L. Anderson.
On-air promotions: NBC Promotions by Lori Sunshine.
Previously announced honors for the WGA West included Glenn and Les Charles, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award; Timothy J. Sexton, the Paul Selvin Award for writing “For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story”; Alan Burnett, Writers Guild Animation Award; and D.C. Fontana, the Morgan Cox Award.
The WGA East honorees include Donald E. Westlake, the Ian McLellan Hunter Award; Colin Callender, the Evelyn F. Burkey Award.