One way the Writers Guild of America leverages clout is by withholding non-signatories from being part of the WGA Awards. That’s why unlike other guilds, a clump of indie, British, and animated movies find themselves excluded every year. A WGA nomination isn’t essential for Oscar nomination; exceptions include American indie “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Iranian Oscar-winner “A Separation,” Oscar-winning British films “Les Miserables” and “The Favourite,” and all Pixar animated contenders, from “Up” to “Incredibles 2.” “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech” both won Best Picture without the benefit of a WGA nomination.
One person who never appears on those ballots: Quentin Tarantino. After the WGA granted the young screenwriter only a story credit on Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers,” Tarantino refused to join the guild. And so he’s not among the 64 original and 44 adapted screenplays on the WGA ballots that members began receiving this week. That shouldn’t roadblock the possibility of a “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” Best Screenplay Oscar nomination; he’s had three WGA-free nominations for Best Original Screenplay, and two wins for “Pulp Fiction” and “Django Unchained.” (Tarantino did eventually join the DGA, which doesn’t exclude non-members from its awards.)
The WGA maintains jurisdiction over whether scripts are produced under a Writer’s Guild contract, and who finally gets credit on a screenplay. (The WGA doesn’t have jurisdiction over most animated films.)
Tarantino is in some good company this year. Also WGA-ineligible are scripts for animated “How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World,” “Missing Link,” “Klaus,” “Toy Story 4” and “Frozen II” as well as indie American screenplays by Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”), Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz (“The Peanut Butter Falcon”), Jimmie Fails, Rob Richert, and Joe Talbot (“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”), Trey Edward Shults (“Waves”), and Ari Aster (“Midsommar”), and European entries from Pedro Almodovar (“Pain and Glory”), Julian Fellowes (“Downton Abbey”), Tom Edge (“Judy”), and Lee Hall and Tom Hooper (“Cats”).
Hall is eligible for Paramount’s “Rocketman, however. And Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” is also in the WGA running for Original Screenplay. Oddly, the WGA has included Anthony McCarten’s “The Two Popes,” which is adapted from his play, under Original Screenplay; Netflix submitted it to the Oscars as an adapted script; the adapted category is less congested this year.
WGA nominations are announced January 6, 2020, with winners presented February 1.