Roth, speaking at the Beyond Words panel at the Writers Guild Theater, recalled that he advised Gaga to emulate Cher’s Loretta Castorini from the 1987 Oscar winner “Moonstruck.”
“I came aboard about the same time Lady Gaga did,” Roth said. “She asked me what she might look at because she’s not an actress by trade. She said, ‘What can I learn from?’ I said, ‘Look at Cher in ‘Moonstruck.’ She’s strong, so sure of herself, kind of tough minded.'”
He also said he and Bradley Cooper made the decision to write a script that would seem improvisational to moviegoers — a major change for Roth, who also received Oscar noms for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Munich,” and “The Insider.” He’s nominated for a WGA Award and an Oscar in adapted screenplay, along with Cooper and Will Fetters for “A Star Is Born.”
“I write 180-page scripts with a lot of prose,” he recalled. “No disrespect to Lady Gaga, but I’m not sure it’s in her DNA to do big set piece things with monologues.”
Roth also admitted his guiding principle is a simple one: “Fear. I was worried about winding up with egg on my face.”
The evening featured many of the nominees for WGA Awards, including “Eighth Grade” writer-director Bo Burnham, who just won the Directors Guild Award for first-time feature director.
“That was the most stunned I’ve ever been,” Burnham said. “I truly did not expect to win at the DGA so I was very relaxed and I had nothing prepared.”
Burnham, who spent a decade as a stand-up comedian before writing “Eighth Grade,” said he took a conventional approach to the screenplay. “I wrote on a MacBook Pro in a coffee shop, like a total cliche,” he explained.
Screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who teamed with John Krasinski on “A Quiet Place,” said they went back a century for inspiration. “It was our love of Charlie Chaplin,” Woods admitted. “Scott and I kept talking about how we could do a modern-day silent film with aliens.”
Paramount has greenlit a sequel, but Beck said mum’s the word: “May, 2020 — go see it. That’s all we can say.”
“Black Panther” writer Joe Robert Cole expressed his satisfaction that he was able to meet the late Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee at the film’s premiere. “It was epic,” he said. “It’s Stan Lee.”
WGA West president David A. Goodman opened by saying, “I always discover at this event that the secret is that it’s a lot of hard work.”
Variety, the Writers Guild Foundation, and Final Draft sponsored the event. Variety co-editor-in-chief Claudia Eller introduced the event, followed by Stacey Wilson Hunt moderating. Panelists included Peter Farrelly and Brian Currie for “Green Book,” Kevin Willmott for “BlacKkKlansman,” Lauren Greenfield for “Generation Wealth,” Gabe Polsky for “In Search of Greatness,” Ozzy Inguanzo and Dava Whisenant for “Bathtubs Over Broadway,” and Nicole Holofcener for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
The WGA Awards will be handed out on Feb. 17 during ceremonies at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., and at the Edison Ballroom in New York.