The screenplays for "The Fabulous Baker Boys" and the independent Irish film "My Left Foot" were the only surprise nominees among the 10 announced Thursday for the 1989 Writers Guild of America awards.
But there were surprises among those shut out from the list: Both "Do the Right Thing," Spike Lee's steamy look at the roots of an urban race riot, and "Drugstore Cowboy," a Bonnie-and-Clyde tale of a group of drug-addicted bandits, co-written by Dan Yost and director Gus Van Sant, were eliminated from the race because they were not union pictures.
Steve Kloves, who wrote and directed "The Fabulous Baker Boys," was joined on the list of nominees for best original screenplay by Woody Allen ("Crimes and Misdemeanors"), Tom Schulman ("Dead Poets Society"), Steven Soderbergh ("sex, lies, and videotape") and Nora Ephron ("When Harry Met Sally").
Shane Connaughton and Jim Sheridan, co-authors of "My Left Foot," were nominated for best adapted screenplays along with Phil Alden Robinson, who adapted "Field of Dreams" from W. T. Kinsella's novel "Shoeless Joe"; Oliver Stone and Ron Kovic, who adapted "Born on the Fourth of July" from Kovic's autobiography; Alfred Uhry, who adapted "Driving Miss Daisy" from his own play, and Kevin Jarre, who adapted "Glory" from a pair of books on the Civil War, as well as Robert Gould Shaw's letters.
"My Left Foot" was adapted by Connaughton and Sheridan, who also directed the film, from the autobiography of the severely disabled Irish painter Christy Brown.
"This was an extraordinarily rich year for screenplays," said director/writer Ron Shelton, who won the guild's award last year for his original "Bull Durham" script. Shelton, who announced the nominees at the guild Thursday morning, added that he had had a tough time whittling his own choices down to 10.
This was not the first time that critically acclaimed films were left out of the WGA competition because the companies that produced them were not guild signatories. "The Dead" and "Crossing Delancey" were shut out for the same reason.
"So, let that be a lesson (to non-union productions)," said WGA President George Kirgo. Although "Do the Right Thing" was released by Universal Pictures, which is obligated to make only union films, it was produced independently and picked up for distribution by the studio.
In its annual round of nominations last week, the Directors Guild of America also overlooked Lee, who wrote, directed and starred in the controversial and critically acclaimed "Do the Right Thing."
However, both "Do the Right Thing" and "Drugstore Cowboy" were eligible for that race because the directors guild does not have a prohibition against nominating directors from non-union movies.
"Drugstore Cowboy" had been selected as best picture of the year by the National Society of Film Critics. The Los Angeles film critics tapped "Do the Right Thing" as the year's best film.
Paul Mazursky, who co-wrote "Enemies, A Love Story," adapted from Isaac Bashevis Singer's novel about four Holocaust survivors in post-war New York, was also shut out on both DGA and WGA ballots.
But in a year where few groups have been able to agree on candidates for best achievements, the WGA nominations covered those made by their colleagues in the Directors Guild. The screenplays for the films of all five DGA nominees--Woody Allen, Peter Weir, Oliver Stone, Phil Alden Robinson and Rob Reiner--were nominated by the WGA. And three of the DGA nominees--Allen, Stone and Robinson--personally received nominations from both groups.