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USC Scripter Awards Finalists Tip Adapted Screenplay Oscar Contenders

The winner of the Scripter for film often goes on to win Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars.

THE LOST DAUGHTER (L-R): OLIVIA COLMAN as LEDA, PAUL MESCAL as WILL . CR: NETFLIX © 2021

THE LOST DAUGHTER (L-R): OLIVIA COLMAN as LEDA, PAUL MESCAL as WILL.

NETFLIX © 2021

The USC Libraries has revealed the finalists for the 34th annual USC Libraries Scripter Award, which honors the year’s best film and television adaptations, as well as the works on which they are based. This group of academics, industry professionals, and critics (for which I vote) is often predictive of the Adapted Screenplay Oscar race.

Last year’s Scripter film winners were “Nomadland” screenwriter Chloé Zhao and author Jessica Bruder (non-Scripter nominee “The Father” took home the Oscar); past winners include “Call Me By Your Name,” “Moonlight,” “The Big Short,” and “The Imitation Game,” which all won Oscars. In fact, before 2019, eight Scripter Award winners went on to win Oscars.

The finalist writers for film adaptation are, in alphabetical order by film title:

Screenwriters Eric Roth, Jon Spaihts, and Denis Villeneuve for “Dune” (Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures and Ace), based on the novel by Frank Herbert

Maggie Gyllenhaal for “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix and Europa Editions), based on the novel by Elena Ferrante

Rebecca Hall for “Passing” (Netflix and Serpent’s Tail), based on the novel by Nella Larsen

Screenwriter Jane Campion and author Thomas Savage for “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix and Back Bay Books)

Screenwriter Joel Coen and playwright William Shakespeare for “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (Apple Original Films/A24 and Penguin)

The panel left off such would-be Oscar contenders as “CODA,” “Cyrano,” “Drive My Car,” “House of Gucci,” “Nightmare Alley,” “Tick, Tick, Boom,” and “West Side Story.” Next week’s WGA nominations announcement will clarify what’s in the running, but many films will not be eligible.

Danielle Deadwyler Station Eleven

Danielle Deadwyler in “Station Eleven”

Warrick Page/HBO

Last year’s television winner was “The Queen’s Gambit,” adapted by Scott Frank from the novel by the late Walter Tevis. The finalist writers for television are, in alphabetical order by series title:

Danny Strong, for the episode “The People vs. Purdue Pharma,” from “Dopesick” (Hulu and Back Bay Books), based on the nonfiction book “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America,” by Beth Macy

Molly Smith Metzler for the episode “Dollar Store,” from “Maid” (Netflix and Hachette Books), based on the memoir “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive” by Stephanie Land

Patrick Somerville for the episode “Wheel of Fire,” from “Station Eleven” (HBO Max and Vintage Books), based on the novel by Emily St. John Mandel

Barry Jenkins for the episode “Indiana Winter” from “The Underground Railroad” (Amazon and Anchor Books), based on the novel by Colson Whitehead

Jac Schaeffer for the episode “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience,” from “WandaVision” (Disney+ and Marvel Comics), based on Marvel Comics characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

The Underground Railroad Barry Jenkins James Laxton

Barry Jenkins and James Laxton on the set of “The Underground Railroad”

Kyle Kaplan/Amazon Studios

Barry Jenkins, a nominee for “The Underground Railroad,” will receive the USC Libraries Literary Achievement Award for his contributions to cinematic storytelling, including his work adapting the 2017 Scripter winner “Moonlight” and the 2019 finalist “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

The 2022 Scripter selection committee selected the finalists from a field of 69 film and 42 television adaptations. Howard Rodman, USC professor and past president of the Writers Guild of America, West, chairs the 2022 committee.

I serve on the Scripter selection committee, which ranges from film critics Leonard Maltin and Kenneth Turan to authors Janet Fitch and Walter Mosley, screenwriters Mark Fergus, Wesley Strick, Larry Karaszewski, and Erin Cressida Wilson, producers Tony Ganz, Mike Medavoy, Gail Mutrux and Ron Yerxa, and USC deans Elizabeth Daley of the School of Cinematic Arts and Catherine Quinlan of the USC Libraries.

The USC Libraries will announce the winning authors and screenwriters at a black-tie ceremony on Saturday, February 26, in the Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library at the University of Southern California. After being held in a virtual format last year amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, the Scripter Awards are currently planning to return to an in-person event subject to up-to-date COVID-19 safety protocols.

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