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Writers and producers in step

Their respective guilds nominate the same four pictures for their annual awards.

January 05, 2006|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

PRODUCERS and writers famously don't always see eye-to-eye, but they found some common ground Wednesday when they announced respective nominees for their members' best work of the year. "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "Crash" and "Good Night, and Good Luck" scored with both the Writers Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America.

The Johnny Cash biographical drama "Walk the Line" rounded out the list of nominees for the PGA's Darryl F. Zanuck producer of the year award.

Over the last few years, the Writers Guild has displayed a fondness for character-driven scripts, and this year is no exception. "Cinderella Man," "Crash," "The 40 Year-Old Virgin," "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "The Squid and the Whale" are the original screenplay nominees, and "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "The Constant Gardener," "A History of Violence" and "Syriana" are the nominees for best adapted screenplay.

Only two major studios, Universal and Warner Bros., were represented in the nominations for the scribes' 58th annual awards, though several nominations went to films distributed by studio specialized divisions such as Focus Features (Universal), Warner Independent Pictures (Warner Bros.) and Sony Pictures Classics (Sony). New Line Cinema and Samuel Goldwyn Films also were represented.

Notably missing from the WGA nominees announced Wednesday were screenplays for such major studio movies as "King Kong," "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Munich."

Two of this year's WGA nominees -- Akiva Goldsman ("Cinderella Man") and Stephen Gaghan ("Syriana") -- are previous winners, but the majority are first-timers such as George Clooney & Grant Heslov ("Good Night, and Good Luck"), Josh Olson ("A History of Violence") and Dan Futterman ("Capote").

The nominations took many of the screenwriters by surprise.

"It's my first studio film," Olson said. "I have been doing a lot of low-budget independent stuff.

"I am still not entirely sure I believe it. This is the biggest thing that's ever happened to me. I'm knocked out."

Goldsman, whom the Writers Guild honored four years ago for "A Beautiful Mind," was caught off guard by his nomination with Cliff Hollingsworth for "Cinderella Man." The Depression-era drama was a box office disappointment. "We had sort of fallen below the radar," he said. "It is always the most extraordinary thing to have people who know what the Crayola box looks like say that you picked the right crayons."

"I am sort of stunned," said Diana Ossana, who is nominated with Larry McMurtry for adapted screenplay for "Brokeback Mountain." (She is also nominated as a producer). "I feel so honored to be in the company of such stellar films. It's a great story and we never lost faith in our script. Not once."

Gaghan, who received the WGA five years ago for "Traffic," said that only fellow scribes know how hard it is to write a script "and why it is hard. Everybody thinks they can write. It is such a strange relationship to awards. You get most of your satisfaction from doing the work. For me, I can't believe that my stuff is even up there on the screen. You just go, 'Wow, they are saying my lines. That's really cool.' "

"It is really lovely," said Paul Haggis, who was nominated by both groups for "Crash." Last year, the WGA nominated his screenplay for "Million Dollar Baby."

"I am so proud to be in the list.... It sounds like a cliche and that's the last thing a writer should be saying, but it's absolutely true. You look at the work and say, 'People are comparing me to that!' "

Futterman, who was nominated for "Capote," described the biographical drama as "the little movie that could. It's incredibly gratifying.... I am glad I paid my dues -- I just joined the union six months ago."

"Nobody thought our movie would be nominated for anything," said writer Judd Apatow, who is nominated with Steve Carell for the box office hit comedy "The 40 Year-Old Virgin."

"That's why there were no ads, no screeners.... There was no moment during the writing of this movie where Steve and I thought that any accolades would follow.... "

Unlike the Directors Guild awards, the writers' nods are not necessarily an Oscar bellwether. Last year, though, both WGA winners -- "Sideways" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" -- went on to win screenplay Oscars. The Writers Guild Awards will take place Feb. 4 in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Palladium and simultaneously in New York at the Waldorf-Astoria.

The producers organization has been a more reliable forecaster for the best picture Oscar. Over the last 15 years, only three films that didn't win the Producers Guild award -- 1992's "Unforgiven," 1995's "Braveheart" and 2004's "Million Dollar Baby" -- went on to win the Academy Award for best picture.

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