Scripter to Honor Coens' Old Men

01/09/08
No Country for Old Men writers win the USC Libraries Scripter, while a new prize recognizes three-time Scripter winner Steven Zaillian.

By Dan Knapp
Josh Brolin portrays a Texan relentlessly pursued by a psychopathic killer in No Country for Old Men.

Photo/Courtesy of Miramax Films
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy and Oscar-winning screenwriters Ethan and Joel Coen have won the 20th annual USC Libraries Scripter Award for No Country for Old Men.

The Scripter recognizes the writers’ contribution to the critically lauded film as the year’s greatest achievement in cinematic adaptation. The USC Libraries announced the winners on behalf of the selection committee and the Friends of the USC Libraries, who sponsor the award.

The Scripter selection committee, led by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal, chose No Country for Old Men from an unprecedented field of nearly 50 eligible films adapted from novels, short stories or novellas.

No Country for Old Men is an accomplished work of filmmaking from the Coen brothers,” Gyllenhaal said, “who have adapted Cormac McCarthy’s book with enormous skill and feeling for the dark places in our souls.”

Atonement, Into the Wild, There Will Be Blood and Zodiac rounded out this year’s group of Scripter finalists.

No Country for Old Men, starring Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones, was directed by the Coens. It has been nominated for four Golden Globe awards and has been named film of the year by the Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Phoenix and Washington D.C., critics associations and the National Board of Review.

Author McCarthy’s career spans more than four decades and includes such books as The Orchard Keeper, Child of God and Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West. McCarthy was a Scripter finalist in 2001 when his 1992 book All the Pretty Horses was adapted into a film with Matt Damon. His novel The Road earned a 2007 Pulitzer.

The Coens’ screenwriting credits include Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, The Hudsucker Proxy and Intolerable Cruelty. Their 1996 collaboration Fargo won the Oscar for best original screenplay. They also an earned Academy Award nomination for an adapted screenplay for O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Vintage Books, a division of Random House, publishes No Country for Old Men, which was distributed in the United States by Miramax Films.

Scripter 2008 marks the award’s platinum anniversary. To celebrate the 20-year milestone, the USC Libraries will honor director, producer and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian with the first Scripter Literary Achievement Award. The Friends of the USC Libraries created this new prize to recognize writers who have made significant and sustained contributions to the art of adaptation.

USC trustee, Scripter co-founder and president of the Friends of the USC Libraries Glenn A. Sonnenberg described Zaillian as the ideal first recipient, noting the scribe’s Academy Award-recognized screenplays for Awakenings, Schindler’s List and Gangs of New York. Zaillian also is a three-time Scripter winner, receiving honors for Schindler’s List, Awakenings and A Civil Action.

“As our only three-time Scripter winner, Steven embodies what the Scripter is all about ľoutstanding storytelling,” Sonnenberg said. “His body of work represents the best in adapted screenwriting.”

Zaillian’s other credits include the screenplays for American Gangster, The Interpreter, Searching for Bobby Fischer and The Falcon and the Snowman.

Tony Award-winning actor Jason Alexander will serve as master of ceremonies for the Feb. 2 Scripter gala. Catherine Quinlan, dean of the USC Libraries, will host the annual black-tie event at Doheny Memorial Library.