“Lincoln” screenwriter Tony Kushner will receive the Writers Guild’s 2013 Paul Selvin Award, in recognition of his script that “best embodies the spirit of the constitutional and civil rights and liberties, which are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere.” Kushner will join the Guild’s other honorees at their awards ceremony on February 17. WGAW president Christopher Keyser states that Kushner’s “eloquent script for ‘Lincoln’ reminds us that, though we like to think of ourselves as the land of the free, in practice, freedom and equality are never a given, and that they are won only through struggle, often by the narrowest of margins and the greatest of sacrifice.”
Kushner, who also worked with “Lincoln” director Steven Spielberg on 2005’s “Munich,” responds;
“I’m happy and moved to learn that I’ve been selected as this year’s recipient for the Paul Selvin Award. Paul Selvin was a lawyer who worked hard for unions and civil rights. I love unions, especially the WGA; I love lawyers – Lincoln was a lawyer! The best thing about working on the Lincoln screenplay was having to think a lot about the centrality of civil rights to the functioning of democratic society and the means by which those rights are secured, so it means a lot to me to receive this lovely honor.”
More on Kushner’s work below. Most notably he won a Pulitzer Prize in Drama for his “Angels in America” play about the AIDS crisis. The two part play (1993’s “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” and 1994’s “Angels in America: Perestroika”) also won two Tony Awards for Best Play.
I speak with Kushner at “Lincoln”‘s AFI premiere in the video below:
Kushner’s slate of acclaimed plays also includes “Slavs!,” Homebody/Kabul,” “A Bright Room Called Day,” the musical “Caroline, or Change,” Tony-nominated for Best Book of a Musical and Best Score, and the opera “A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck,” both conceived with collaborator-composer Jeanine Tesori, as well as “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures.” He has also adapted and translated Pierre Corneille’s “The Illusion,” S.Y. Ansky’s “The Dybbuk,” and Bertolt Brecht’s “The Good Person of Sezuan” and “Mother Courage and Her Children,” as well as the English-language libretto for the opera “Brundibár” by Hans Krasa.
On the literary front, he has collaborated with children’s author-illustrator Maurice Sendak on several books, including Brundibar and The Art of Maurice Sendak, 1980 to the Present. His other books include Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict, co-edited with Alisa Solomon.
Over the course of writing career, Kushner has also received three Obie Awards, two Evening Standard Awards, an Olivier Award, and the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, among other honors. In 2010, Kushner received the “Golden Apple Award” from the Casting Society of America (CSA) for his diverse body of film and theatrical work.
Born in 1956 in New York City, Writers Guild, East member Kushner spent most of his childhood in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He received his B.A. in Medieval Studies from Columbia University, later earning his graduate degree from New York University’s Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts. Among numerous honorary doctorates he has received over the years, Kushner was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Brandeis University in 2006, received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from SUNY Purchase College in 2008, and received an honorary doctorate from CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2011. He currently lives in Manhattan with his husband, Entertainment Weekly columnist and author Mark Harris.