You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tom McCarthy, Adam McKay, Other WGA Awards Nominees Reveal Their Screenwriting Journeys

The agonies of screenwriting were on full view Thursday night at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, where 11 scribes nominated for WGA Awards took part in the guild’s Beyond Words program.

One of the biggest laughs from the full house came when “Spotlight” writer Josh Singer admitted that he and writer-director Tom McCarthy spent several years going through the Boston Globe’s investigation of pedophile priests.

“We did research for a long time,” Singer said. “Anything to put off writing.”

McCarthy admitted that interviews with the victims of the scandal was a turning point. “The story really came together once we talked with survivors,” he added.

Both “Spotlight” writers were effusive in their praise of the Boston Globe journalists portrayed in the film, noting that editor  Martin “Marty” Baron (portrayed by Liev Schreiber) even supplied them with extensive emails to keep the timeline straight. They also credited the initial producers, Nicole Rocklin and Blye Faust, who began working on the project soon after the Globe stories broke in 2002.

McCarthy noted that the film appears to be having an impact on the Catholic Church, pointing out that the Vatican commission on clerical sex abuse had attended a private screening of “Spotlight” on Thursday.

Moderator John August began the 90-minute program by asking each panelist how long they had worked on the project. “Trumbo” screenwriter John McNamara said he had met Ian McLellan Hunter, who had fronted for Dalton Trumbo on “Roman Holiday,” more than three decades ago.

August declared Phyllis Nagy, who adapted “Carol” from Patricia Highsmith’s “The Price of Salt,” as the winner after she responded “18 effing years.”

The discussions also included plenty of references to other movies as inspiration. “The Big Short” writers Adam McKay and Charles Randolph said their film broke the fourth wall as a way to engage the audience. McKay cited Woody Allen and Michael Winterbottom films as inspirations for the technique.

“I had seen ’24-Hour Party People,’ which broke the fourth wall masterfully,” he added.

McNamara evoked major laughs a short time later when he praised McKay’s 2008 comedy “Step Brothers,” which stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.

“‘Step Brothers’ is a masterpiece,” he said sincerely. “I’ve seen it 37 times.”

August also evoked provocative responses when he asked the writers to describe a scene they’d written that did not make the final cut. “The Martian” writer Drew Goddard recalled that there was a four-minute scene of how NASA makes canvas that director Ridley Scott cut immediately when he came onto the film.

McNamara said a scene with Helen Mirren’s Hedda Hopper character — in which she reacted silently to trying to shake hands with a Korean War veteran and discovering he had lost his hand — was excised from “Trumbo.”

And “Straight Outta Compton” writer Jonathan Herman admitted that there was a scene of Dr. Dre’s character — played by Corey Hawkins — smoking “chronic” marijuana that wound up on the editing room floor.

Herman also said that the city itself and the characters’ relationship with it was a major inspiration for the script, adding, “Compton was always supposed to be a major character in the movie.”

Beyond Words was sponsored by the Writers Guild Foundation and Variety.

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Laverne Cox Charlie's Angels

    How Laverne Cox Landed a Cameo in Elizabeth Banks' 'Charlie’s Angels'

    Laverne Cox officially earned her wings, scoring a role in Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels.” But she revealed her cameo almost didn’t happen. When the Emmy-nominee heard that Elizabeth Banks was directing the film, the longtime fan of the franchise (and of Banks herself) reached out about being part of the project. Cox had previously worked with [...]

  • Lena Waithe'The Inheritance' Broadway play opening,

    Lena Waithe, Anderson Cooper Attend Broadway Opening of 'The Inheritance'

    “The Inheritance” pulls viewers in many directions — toward pain and hope, trauma and healing. It’s what brought stars like Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and Lena Waithe to Broadway on Sunday — a chance to heal, to remember and grieve. Also in attendance for the premiere at the Barrymore Theater [...]

  • Cybill ShepherdTrevorLIVE, Show, The Beverly Hilton,

    'The L Word' Co-Stars Cybill Shepherd and Jane Lynch Reunite at TrevorLive

    Fans of Showtime’s “The L Word” will be happy to hear that Cybill Shepherd eagerly reprised her on-screen romance with former co-star Jane Lynch on Sunday night at the TrevorLive Gala at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. While accepting the champion Award, Shepherd kissed Lynch not one, but twice. The “Moonlighting” star was recognized [...]

  • Rami Malek, Robert Pattinson and John

    Robert Pattinson Praises Fans for Raising Funds for Go Campaign: ‘It’s So Sweet’

    Robert Pattinson is giving back, but he’s even more impressed that his friends and fans are joining him in the fight. “It’s amazing,” Pattinson told Variety on the black carpet outside Neuehouse in Hollywood at the Go Campaign’s annual gala. “And they’ve done it every year. It’s kind of — it’s so sweet and I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content