WGA ogles ‘Beauty’

'Election' shares top screenwriting honors for pics

The scribes behind “American Beauty” and “Election” carried away the top honors in motion picture screenwriting Sunday from the Writers Guild of America.

Alan Ball won for “Beauty” in the original screenplay category as the awards season front-runner continued to rack up honors. Ball’s script — his first produced screenplay — about a suburban family unraveling topped Charlie Kaufman for “Being John Malkovich”; Paul Thomas Anderson, “Magnolia”; M. Night Shyamalan, “The Sixth Sense”; and David O. Russell, story by John Ridley, “Three Kings.”

The “Election” team of Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor won the prize for best adapted screenplay. Their script was based on the novel by Tom Perrotta about a high school teacher interfering in the election for student body president. The duo, who also received the film’s only Academy Awards nomination, beat out John Irving for “The Cider House Rules”; Michael Mann and Eric Roth, “The Insider”; Lewis Colick, “October Sky”; and Anthony Minghella, “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

The honors, marking the 52nd year for the awards, were presented in joint ceremonies at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills and the Plaza Hotel in New York. Of the 13 movie nominees, Roth had been the only previous winner, having taken the prize for “Forrest Gump.”

Payne also directed “Election,” which was released last spring by Paramount and generated less than $15 million domestic gross despite critical acclaim. DreamWorks’ “Beauty” has grossed $93.1 million.

‘Sopranos’ encore

Jason Cahill won this year’s award for episodic television drama for HBO’s “The Sopranos” with the “Meadowlands” script, while Jay Kogen took the episodic comedy prize for the “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz” episode of NBC’s “Frasier.” Jerry Ludwig won for best original telefilm script for A&E’s “Dash and Lilly,” while David Black was the victor in the adapted TV movie category for Cinemax’s “The Confession.”

NBC led the TV awards with three. Besides the “Frasier” nod, the network also won the comedy/variety category for “Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” which honored the star and 16 other writers, and the daytime serials category with “Days of Our Lives,” which honored 13 scribes.

CBS took a single award for “The Kennedy Center Honors” in the “comedy/variety — music, awards, tributes — specials” category, and Showtime’s “Sea People” won the children’s script award. PBS won both documentary awards and ABC took both news awards and all three radio awards.

Comedienne Caroline Rhea emceed the show from Beverly Hills.

Previously announced honorary awards presented in Los Angeles included Jean-Claude Carriere for the Screen Laurel Award; Paul Monash, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television; Alan Alda, the Valentine Davis Award; Ann Marcus, the Morgan Cox Award; and Michael Mann and Eric Roth, the Paul Selvin Award for “The Insider.”

Honorary awards in New York included Vaclav Havel, the Evelyn F. Burkey Award; Herb Gardner, the Ian McLellan Hunter Award; and Ruth Gallo, the Richard B. Jablow Award.

(Angelina Chen in New York contributed to this report.)

A complete list of winners follows:



“American Beauty,” written by Alan Ball; DreamWorks.


“Election,” screenplay by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor; basedon the novel by Tom Perrotta; Paramount



“Dash and Lilly,” written by Jerry Ludwig; A&E Network and Granada Entertainment; A&E


“The Confession,” screenplay by David Black, based on the novel “Fertig” by Sol Yurick; Paramount Pictures; Cinemax


“Meadowlands (The Sopranos),” written by Jason Cahill; HBO Films; HBO


“Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz (Frasier),” written by Jay Kogen; Network Television Division, Paramount Pictures; NBC


“The Kennedy Center Honors,” written by Bob Shrum and George Stevens Jr., film sequences written by Sara Lukinson; Kennedy Center Television; CBS


“Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” written by Jonathan Groff, Jon Glaser, Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter, Mike Sweeney, Michael Gordon, Brian Kiley, Brian Stack, Chris Albers, Brian McCann, Ellen Barancik, Janine Di Tullio, Andy Blitz, Tommy Blacha, Brian Reich, Vernon Chatman and Ray Jenkins; NBC


“Days of Our Lives,” written by Sally Sussman Morina, Dena Higley, Marlene Clark Poulter, Dorothy Ann Purser, Victor Gialanella, Meredith Post, Peter Brash, Peggy Schibi, Fran Myers, Maralyn Thoma, Joyce Rosenblad, Bruce Neckels and Sofia Landon Geier; NBC


“Sea People,” written by Wendy Biller & Christopher Hawthorne; Temple Street Prods.; Showtime


“Give War a Chance (Frontline),” written by Michael Kirk & Peter J. Boyer; Kirk Documentary Group; PBS


“Hoover Dam (The American Experience),” written by Stephen Stept; WGBH Educational Foundation; PBS


“20/20 Wednesday,” written by Lori A. Bores; Capital Cities/ABC; ABC


“A Special Delivery (20/20),” written by Lori A. Bores; Capital Cities/ABC; ABC



“The Drug Score,” written by Julia Kathan; ABC News Radio


“World News This Week,” written by Ruth Stein Davis; ABC News Radio


“The Last Polka in Cleveland (Perspective),” written by Mike Silverstein; ABC News Radio


“NBC Promotions,” written by Christian McLaughlin; NBC


“CBS News/Time 100,” written by Beth Leudesdorf & John Haubrich; CBS

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