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Michael Moore logs a first at Writers Guild
Michael Moore said he was "stunned and honored" Feb. 6 when he learned his documentary "Bowling for Columbine" earned him a best-original-screenplay nomination for the 55th annual Writers Guild of America Awards.
It is the first time in WGA history that a documentary film has been nominated in this category. "I didn't submit this to the Writers Guild," Moore said, "because in the past I knew they don't nominate documentaries. But United Artists did."
The four other original screenplay nominations for the best of 2002 went to Antwone Fisher for his uplifting autobiography "Antwone Fisher"; Todd Haynes for his lush '50s melodrama "Far From Heaven"; Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian and Kenneth Lonergan for the historical epic "Gangs of New York"; and Nia Vardalos for her romantic comedy "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."
Nominated for adapted screenplay are Peter Hedges and Chris & Paul Weitz for "About a Boy," the British comedy about a man-child who finally grows up, based on Nick Hornby's novel; Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor for "About Schmidt," a comedy-drama about a bitter retiree, based on the novel by Louis Begley; Charlie Kaufman and the fictional Donald Kaufman for the comedy "Adaptation," based on the book "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orlean; Bill Condon for the musical "Chicago" based on the musical play, book by Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb and the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins; and David Hare for the poignant drama "The Hours," based on the novel by Michael Cunningham.
With the nomination for his controversial documentary about America's love affair with guns, which includes some animated sequences and commentary by the filmmaker, all of which he wrote after filming the documentary, Moore believes the WGA thought it was "time to recognize a documentary as a form of writing. I think with this nomination the members of the WGA are saying we need to view film in all of its forms and manifestations and that if we are going to encourage better films, it's time to think outside of the box. I hope that this gives a boost to all documentary filmmakers that we are being [judged] on the same level playing field."
Notably missing from the list of nominees for adapted screenplay were Ronald Harwood for Roman Polanski's "The Pianist" and Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Stephen Sinclair for Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers." Harwood had won the National Society of Film Critics award for his screenplay of the Holocaust drama, and "The Pianist" is considered an Oscar contender for best film. The second installment of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy is more action-oriented than the first, but it too is thought to be in the running for a best picture Oscar, and "The Fellowship of the Ring" received writing nominations from the WGA and Oscar voters.
Though WGA award winners often go on to win the Oscar, it's not a consistently reliable Academy Award indicator, as much as the Directors Guild of America Award is for directors.
"It's surprising when things work out," said Charlie Kaufman, who acknowledged Thursday he didn't believe his offbeat adaptation of "The Orchid Thief" was going to work as a screenplay. "There were a lot of moments when I wanted to stop writing and give the money back. It's good that I kept going on."
Hare said matter-of-factly he felt he would be nominated for the WGA award because of the exhilarating Q&A sessions he had in Los Angeles and New York after screenings of "The Hours" for members of the Writers Guild. "I think that any screenwriter would have relished this book simply because it had three separate stories. There was a craft element in making the stories work. As a job of craftsmanship it was very interesting, but also the themes of the book are very profound. Though it took me a year to draft it, all the problems that I had were nice problems."
The awards will be given March 8 at ceremonies at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills and the Pierre Hotel in New York.