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Final Draft Awards: Callie Khouri Responds to Jussie Smollett Attack

Callie Khouri shifted the attention off herself Tuesday night and on to the assault and hospitalization of “Empire” star Jussie Smollett in Chicago earlier that day.

Khouri, the Oscar-winning writer of “Thelma & Louise” and the creator of the series “Nashville,” made her remarks at the Paramount Theatre in Hollywood during her induction into the Final Draft Hall of Fame. She emphasized the role that writers play in troubled times.

“I decided to talk about our responsibility as storytellers,” she said. “We have to help each other understand how connected we are. We are seeing things in 2019 that would not look out of place in 1939 and that’s a failure of our society, so we have to keep telling our stories.”

Khouri admitted that it’s still a challenge to make herself write. “I would be most qualified to write about how to avoid writing because that’s what I’m best at,” she added.

She also revealed that she wrote “Thelma & Louise” by hand. “There was no Final Draft. And that’s how long I’ve been writing.”

Warner Bros. Production president Courtenay Valenti presented the award to Khouri, noting the profound impact that “Thelma & Louise” had when it was released in 1992. “It was a story that told the truth about women’s lives,” she said.

Khouri also penned the scripts for “Something to Talk About” and “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” which marked her directorial debut. She also helmed the 2008 Diane Keaton/Queen Latifah crime comedy “Mad Money.”

The 14th annual Final Draft event, emceed by Randy and Jason Sklar (the Sklar Brothers), also saw “Sorry to Bother You” director-writer Boots Riley and “Vida” creator and showrunner Tanya Saracho presented with its New Voice awards.

Riley was presented his award by “Sorry to Bother You” cast members Armie Hammer and Terry Crews, who began by making fun of himself and Riley.

“There’s probably nothing more cringe-worthy in Hollywood than a rapper with a script, except a former NFL player who wants to act,” Crews said. “His script hit me so deeply that it opened a porthole in my brain and the truth poured in.”

“We’re in a time where there are movements growing all around the world and screenwriting for film has always been way behind the curve,” Riley said. “A lot of us have progressive and radical politics that we edit out.”

Riley urged the audience to express ideas such as class struggle, which is portrayed in his movie. “People want to fight for something new,” he added. “All you writers and actors in here — you’re very powerful.”

Final Draft Awards 2019 - Boots Riley, Terry Crews
CREDIT: Temma Hankin

Saracho received her award from “One Day at a Time” showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett and expressed her frustration with the lack of Latina stories.

“Our narrative as Latinas is being discounted from the larger narrative of this country,” she noted. “We don’t count. I don’t know why.”

She also said the Final Draft award is a validation to someone who’s an immigrant, queer, and a person with “crushing self-doubt.”

Myles Reid won the Final Draft Big Break screenwriting contest award for TV for “Scattershot” and Jeff Cassidy took the Big Break feature award for “Daisy’s Story.”

Previous recipients of the Final Draft Hall of Fame honor include Aaron Sorkin, Nancy Meyers, Lawrence Kasdan, Paul Schrader, Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, Steven Zaillian, Robert Towne, Oliver Stone, and Sydney Pollack.

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