WGA calls off awards show

Winners will still be announced on Feb. 9

On the heels of unveiling its screenplay award nominations, the WGA’s dumped cold water on the kudos by calling off its Feb. 9 awards show in Los Angeles — unless it’s ended its strike by then.

In a brief announcement Thursday afternoon, the guild said it would announce its award winners on Feb. 9 as planned but added that “there will be no Writers Guild of America West show until the strike is over.”

WGA West had been planning to hold its event at the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Its move blindsided its counterparts at the WGA East, which could not say whether it would proceed with its awards event at the Hudson Theater at the Broadway Millennium Hotel in Gotham.

“We are exploring our options, and we will let you know when we have made a decision,” said WGA East rep Sherry Goldman.

For all practical purposes, scribes can forget about donning formal wear for the Los Angeles event. The WGA’s not expected to get back to the bargaining table until the DGA makes a deal and the directors have not yet set its talks with the AMPTP; so it’s highly unlikely that the writers strike — now in its 10th week — would be settled by Feb. 9.

WGA talks collapsed Dec. 7 after the AMPTP demanded that the scribes remove half a dozen proposals from the table. No new WGA negotiations have been scheduled.

Still, the WGA’s forging ahead with honoring its top writers — despite rolling up the red carpet. It unveiled the 101 nominations for its two feature screenplay awards earlier Thursday, along with six nods for top documentary script.

Original screenplay noms went to Diablo Cody for Fox Searchlight’s “Juno,” Tony Gilroy for Warner Bros.’ “Michael Clayton,” Tamara Jenkins for Searchlight’s “The Savages,” Judd Apatow for Universal’s “Knocked Up” and Nancy Oliver for MGM’s “Lars and the Real Girl.”

Adapted mentions went to Ethan and Joel Coen for Miramax’s “No Country for Old Men,” Paul Thomas Anderson for Paramount Vantage’s “There Will Be Blood,” Ronald Harwood for Miramax’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” Sean Penn for Vantage’s “Into the Wild” and James Vanderbilt for Par’s “Zodiac.”

The move to pull the plug on the WGA show is only the latest development in Hollywood’s most chaotic awards season within memory. Threats of WGA pickets caused NBC to transform this Sunday’s Golden Globes into a news conference and have thrown the fate of the Feb. 24 Oscarcast into question.

The WGA has granted strike waivers to the Jan. 27 SAG Awards and the Feb. 23 Film Independent Spirit Awards, as both are telecast. And the DGA Awards on Jan. 26 and the Feb. 2 Producers Guild Awards — neither of which is broadcast — are moving ahead as planned.

Jenkins noted that the strike makes her nom particularly memorable. “It feels extra special to be nominated with everything so focused on the strike — sort of a reminder that oh, yes, we do write,” she added.

Harwood offered a similar reaction: “I’m thrilled to get the nomination from my colleagues, particularly under the present circumstances of being on strike. It’s really a cause for celebration.”

Harwood also noted that the WGA nom is his first. He received the Oscar for adapted screenplay for 2002’s “The Pianist.”

Of the 10 films, WGA voters named all five nominated earlier this week for the DGA’s top directing award. Anderson, the Coen brothers, Gilroy and Penn all received DGA mentions, as did Julian Schnabel for “Diving Bell.”

“I could get used to this,” Gilroy told Daily Variety in reacting to his two noms. “It’s been a pretty good week, and it’s a great confirmation from people who know what the job is. And I think it definitely helped to be both the pitcher and the catcher.”

WGA members opted mostly for specialty fare, with only three nominations going to pics from the six majors — “Michael Clayton,” “Knocked Up” and “Zodiac.” Miramax, Fox Searchlight and Par Vantage each took a pair of noms.

“Knocked Up” is by far the biggest domestic grosser of the nominated films, with $148 million. WGA nom is the second for writer-director Apatow, who scored one two years ago for “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” along with Steve Carell.

WGA winners have matched Oscar winners in the original category eight times in the past 13 years, including in 2007, when Michael Arndt won for “Little Miss Sunshine.” In the adapted screenplay category, winners have matched nine times in the past 13 years, with William Monahan taking both trophies last year for “The Departed.”

Features eligible for a WGA award were released during 2007 and produced under WGA jurisdiction or under that of affiliate guilds in Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland and New Zealand. There were 164 pics eligible in the original screenplay and 103 in adapted screenplay.

Documentary noms went to Anthony Giacchino for First Run’s “The Camden 28”; Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman and Elisabeth Bentley for ThinkFilm’s “Nanking”; Charles Ferguson for Magnolia’s “No End in Sight”; Richard Berge, Nicole Newnham and Bonni Cohen for Menemsha’s “The Rape of Europa”; Michael Moore for Lionsgate’s “Sicko”; and Alex Gibney for ThinkFilm’s “Taxi to the Dark Side.”

Moore won the WGA original screenplay award four years ago for his docu “Bowling for Columbine.” The WGA then decided to set up a separate documentary category, making docs ineligible for the screenplay categories.

To be eligible documentaries must have featured an onscreen writing credit and been exhibited theatrically in Los Angeles or New York for one week in 2007. Credited writers were required to join the WGA’s Nonfiction Writers Caucus, but the scripts were not required to have been written under WGA jurisdiction to be considered.

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