×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fearlessness powers Diane English

'Murphy Brown' creator wins WGA Chayefsky honor

Screenwriter Diane English is known for creating strong female characters. The most famous: Murphy Brown — a smart, aggressive, independent broadcast journalist played by Candice Bergen in the Emmy-winning CBS sitcom of the same name that ran from 1988-98.

“Diane is a terrific, fearless and funny writer who was never afraid to tackle any subject — from single motherhood to breast cancer survival — with wit, honesty and above all, humanity,” Bergen says.

Before creating “Murphy,” English wrote and produced ’80s CBS sitcoms, “Foley Square” and “My Sister Sam.” It was her work on the 1980 PBS feature film, “Lathe of Heaven,” that brought her to Hollywood and earned her a Writers Guild nom. She later won that award for “Murphy.”

English says her college major in playwriting helped develop her chops.

“You learn structure and character, and you don’t have anything but the proscenium,” she says. “You have to be creative. It’s the basics. You can’t be Picasso unless you know how to draw a real face, then you can turn it upside down.”

In the ’90s, English worked on more sitcoms, creating multiple Emmy-nominated “Love and War” (CBS), co-creating “Double Rush” (CBS) and “Ink” (CBS) and executive producing “Living in Captivity” (Fox).

It was her childhood years in Buffalo, N.Y., that honed her comedic side. “We didn’t have any money, and there was no shopping mall and it got dark at 3 o’clock,” she laughs. “Long, dark winters. One has to develop a sense of humor to cope.”

Like her creation Murphy Brown, English is not afraid to venture into new territory. She made her directorial debut with an all-female cast feature film “The Women” in 2008 from a screenplay she adapted from Clare Boothe Luce’s 1936 play and George Cukor’s 1939 film. She will direct “Timbuktu,” now casting, from a screenplay she adapted.

English doesn’t discount returning to TV one day, saying, “I miss the camaraderie of the writers’ room.”

More from the WGA Awards:
WGA quietly girds for next negotations
Honorees
Steven Zaillian | Diane English | Susannah Grant | Seth Freeman | Mike Scully

More Film

  • Backtrace Review

    Film Review: 'Backtrace'

    “You can’t kill me! I died seven years ago!” It’s very much to the credit of Matthew Modine that he persuasively sells this melodramatic scrap of dialogue, and every other aspect of his trickily written lead character, in “Backtrace,” a better-than-average VOD-centric thriller that likely wouldn’t work nearly so well without the veteran actor’s totally [...]

  • Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    Film News Roundup: 'Lawnmower Man' Director Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    In today’s film news roundup, “Elijah” gets a director, a French fry documentary starts shooting and “Uglydolls” moves its release date forward. PROJECT LAUNCH Brett Leonard, best known for directing ”The Lawnmower Man” and “Virtuosity,” will direct the supernatural feature film “Elijah,” based on the Old Testament prophet. The project is set up at Winter [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Commercial Negotiations Set for February

    With no fanfare, SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry have set a mid-February start for negotiations for a successor deal to the union’s master contract, Variety has learned. The current three-year deal — which covers about $1 billion in annual earnings — expires on March 31. SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee of the ad industry [...]

  • SONDRA LOCKESONDRA LOCKE - 1986

    Oscar Nominee Sondra Locke Dies at 74

    Actress and director Sondra Locke, who received a supporting actress Oscar nomination in her first movie role for “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” died Nov. 3 at 74. The Los Angeles County Public Health Department confirmed her death. She died due to breast and bone cancer, according to Radar Online, which reported that she [...]

  • Clint Eastwood and Alison Eastwood'The Mule'

    Clint Eastwood: Why Alison Eastwood Came Out of Acting Retirement for Her Dad

    Clint Eastwood’s daughter Alison Eastwood was done with acting after appearing in 2014’s “Finding Harmony.” Or so she thought. It was a Friday night and she and her husband were heading to dinner when her father’s producer Sam Moore called. “He [says], ‘You know, your dad wants you to do this film,” Alison recalls. “I [...]

  • 'Dead Women Walking' Review: Uncompromising, Powerful

    Film Review: 'Dead Women Walking'

    The sober and gripping “Dead Women Walking” focuses on the final days of a series of female inmates facing the death sentence. Divided into nine chapters, each inching its way inexorably closer to the moment of execution, the drama turns the fragmentation of its approach to a powerful advantage. Not only do the individual stories [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Sam Mendes' World War I Drama '1917' Set for Awards-Season Launch on Christmas 2019

    Universal Pictures has given an awards-season release date of Dec. 25, 2019, to Sam Mendes’ World War I drama “1971.” Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners is producing “1917” through its DreamWorks Pictures brand. “1917” will open in limited release on Christmas Day then go wide two weeks later on Jan. 10, 2020. Mendes wrote the script [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content