‘Women Talking’ and ‘Slow Horses’ Win Adapted Screenplay USC Scripter Awards

The winner of the Scripter for film often goes on to win Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars.
Sarah Polley winning the USC Scripter Award for adapting "Women Talking" could have implications for the Oscars.
Sarah Polley winning the USC Scripter Award for adapting "Women Talking" could be a signpost for where the Oscars are heading

The University of Southern California Libraries revealed the winners for the 35th annual USC Libraries Scripter Award on Saturday. The awards, which honor the year’s best film and television adaptations (along with the works on which they are based), returned live to USC’s elegant Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library for the annual black tie awards fete.

This group of academics, industry professionals, and critics is often predictive of the Adapted Screenplay Oscar race, presaging 14 eventual Oscar winners, including in the last decade “Argo” (2013), “12 Years a Slave” (2014), “The Imitation Game” (2015), “The Big Short” (2016), “Moonlight” (2017), and “Call Me By Your Name” (2018).

Screenwriter Sarah Polley and novelist Miriam Toews won the film award for “Women Talking,” which is nominated for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay Oscars, while the television prize went to English stand-up comedian and screenwriter Will Smith for the episode “Failure’s Contagious,” from “Slow Horses,” based on the novel by Mick Herron. Scripter selection committee voter Gail Mutrux is an executive producer of the The AppleTV+ spy series starring Gary Oldman, who attended the dinner.

Both sets of winners opted for more humorous acceptance speeches, with Herron cracking a joke about how, yes, Will Smith was at an awards ceremony (as the TV writer mimed a slap). “Thank you, first of all to Mick Herron for keeping my wife’s name out of his mouth,” said Smith in return.

Meanwhile, a hoarse Toews said, “This is pretty obviously ironic, I’ve lost my voice, seriously. So one woman talking really,” garnering a laugh from the crowd. And Polley, who subtly acknowledged her current Oscar nominations, deemed the Scripter award a unique honor. “Thank you so much to this organization for honoring the author of the book alongside the writer of the screenplay,” said the filmmaker.

Last year, the Scripters panel left off Oscar contender “CODA” (which won the Adapted Screenplay Oscar). Maggie Gyllenhaal’s adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix) won the film award, while on the television side, author Beth Macy and screenwriter Danny Strong won for the Hulu series “Dopesick.”

WOMEN TALKING, from left: Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Judith Ivey, Sheila McCarthy, Michelle McLeod, Jessie Buckley, 2022. ph: Michael Gibson / © Orion Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection
“Women Talking”©Orion Pictures Corp/Courtesy Everett Collection

Of this year’s four finalist writers for film adaptation (Paramount withdrew the nominated “Top Gun: Maverick” writers from contention), only one other is also an Oscar nominee: Kazuo Ishiguro for “Living,” based on the novella “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Leo Tolstoy. “Women Talking” also beat out finalists Guillermo del Toro, Patrick McHale, and Matthew Robbins for “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (based on the fairy tale “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi), and Rebecca Lenkiewicz for “She Said” (based on the nonfiction book “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement” by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey).

The television winner “Slow Horses” beat out finalists Peter Morgan for “The Crown” (based on his stage play “The Audience”); Taffy Brodesser-Akner for  “Fleishman Is in Trouble” (based on her novel); J. T. Rogers for “Tokyo Vice” (based on Jake Adelstein’s memoir “Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan”); and Dustin Lance Black for “Under the Banner of Heaven” (based on the nonfiction work by Jon Krakauer).

"Slow Horses"
“Slow Horses”Jack English

The 2023 Scripter selection committee selected the finalists from a wide field of film and television adaptations. Howard Rodman, USC professor and past president of the Writers Guild of America, West, chaired the 2023 committee.

The Scripter selection committee ranges from film critics Leonard Maltin, Kenneth Turan and me to authors Janet Fitch, Michael Ondaatje and Walter Mosley; screenwriters Eric Roth, Mark Fergus, Wesley Strick, Larry Karaszewski, and Erin Cressida Wilson; producers Mike Medavoy, Gail Mutrux, and Ron Yerxa; and USC dean Elizabeth Daley of the School of Cinematic Arts and acting dean Andrew T. Guzman of the USC Libraries.

Additional reporting by Marcus Jones.

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