Although director Alexander Payne was unable to attend the ceremony, screenwriters Jim Rash and Nat Faxon were on hand to accept the award with novelist Kaui Hart Hemmings.
“This is such an honor to be part of something that puts books on a pedestal,” Rash told the crowd.
Faxon, who is an actor-writer like Rash, joked about finally being able to accept Payne’s choices in actors. “I think it was a good call casting George Clooney and not me,” he conceded.
USC alumnus and Directors Guild president Taylor Hackford and his wife, Helen Mirren, served as honorary dinner chairs. Hackford spoke eloquently about the delicate balance between remaining faithful to source material and creating a compelling script.
“It’s a real artform. And so important and fragile. But don’t be too conservative,” Hackford said.
Mirren talked about how crucial the library can be for actors researching a part.
“The books in this library are far more valuable than a page on Wikipedia,” Mirren said.
Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis accepted the Literary Achievement Award and said of his career choice, “You’ve got to be a little emotionally unstable to be in this profession,” but added that in order to be successful writers have to embrace the “ridiculous” nature of it.
The other Scripter finalists included “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “Moneyball,” both of which are up for adapted screenplay Oscars next weekend, and “A Dangerous Method” and “Jane Eyre.”
USC Libraries Dean Catherine Quinlan served as mistress of ceremonies and expressed feigned dismay about how few movies have shown the exciting lives of librarians. “Where are all the library movies?” she asked, garnering laughs from the audience.