USC Scripter Award Finalists Announced

From A(tonement) to Z(odiac), this year’s nominees represent the best cinematic adaptations in a highly competitive field of contenders.
By Dan Knapp
The five finalists were chosen from a pool of more than 50 eligible films, the most in Scripter's 20-year history.

The author-screenwriter teams behind Atonement, Into the Wild, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood and Zodiac have been named finalists for the 2008 USC Libraries Scripter Award.

The Scripter is presented annually by USC Libraries to the writers of the most accomplished cinematic adaptation of a book, novella or short story. Tony Award-winning actor Jason Alexander will serve as master of ceremonies for the 2008 gala.

This year’s finalists, in alphabetical order by film title, are: screenwriter Christopher Hampton for Atonement, based on the novel by Ian McEwan; screenwriter Sean Penn and adventure writer Jon Krakauer for Into the Wild; screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy for No Country for Old Men; screenwriter Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood, based on the book Oil by Upton Sinclair; and true-crime author and former San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith for Zodiac, adapted by James Vanderbilt.

Penn, the Coen brothers and Anderson also directed the films that earned them a Scripter nomination.

The 39-member selection committee, helmed this year by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal, determined the five finalists from a field of more than 50 eligible films the most in Scripter history.

“This was a banner year for adaptations,” Gyllenhaal said. “Each of the fine nominated screenplays draws on significant published writing to provide us with a provocative film that examines where we are as a culture today. These screenplays are more than translations; they are each original in their own way, without losing the spirit of where they began. And they leave the audience with questions to answer as they walk out of the theatre. What could be better?”

The studios distributing the Scripter finalist films and the publishing houses currently publishing the books on which they are based are: Focus Features for Atonement, published by Anchor Books, an imprint of Random House; Paramount Vantage for Into the Wild, also published by Anchor; Miramax Films for No Country for Old Men, published by Knopf Publishing Group at Random House; Paramount Vantage for There Will Be Blood, based on Oil, published by Penguin Group; and Paramount Pictures for Zodiac, published by Penguin’s Berkley Books.

The Scripter is the only award of its kind that recognizes the authors and the screenwriters of a produced book-to-film adaptation. The selection committee includes Writers Guild of America members, Academy Award-winning and -nominated screenwriters, authors, film-industry executives, USC faculty, the dean of the USC Libraries and selected members of the Friends of the USC Libraries, who sponsor the award.

Past Scripter winners include the authors and screenwriters of Children of Men, Million Dollar Baby, The Hours, A Beautiful Mind, L.A. Confidential, The English Patient and Schindler’s List. The first Scripter was awarded to the writers of 84 Charing Cross Road in 1988.

On behalf of the selection committee, the USC Libraries will announce the winners of the platinum-anniversary Scripter Award Jan. 9. USC Libraries Dean Catherine Quinlan will host the black-tie ceremony at USC’s Doheny Memorial Library Feb. 2.