We have sped right into the award-and-benefit season so our community is buzzing with activity. Our very fashionable ladies are coordinating their elegant party clothes, while their escorts are updating their tuxedos in order to attend the many upcoming events.
Last Friday night the architecturally stunning Italian Romanesque Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library on the USC campus was aglow with soft lighting as guests in formal dress gathered in the building’s soaring rotunda for the 23rd annual Scripter Award dinner to recognize this year’s best film adaptation of a novel.
No matter how many times I enter the foyer of this marble-clad library, it is always a breathtaking moment for me because it is so beautiful.
The reason for the evening is to witness the presentation of the awards honoring the written word’s contribution to the art of motion pictures. This always-exquisite evening is the signature event of the USC Friends of the Libraries and always is sold out.
This year’s Scripter Award went to author Ben Mezrich for his book, “The Accidental Billionaires: The founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal,” and the film, “The Social Network,” with Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter.
The evening, which was expertly produced by Toni Miller, began with a VIP reception hosted by the university’s dean of libraries, Catherine Quinlan.
Quinlan is a dynamic woman who navigated easily about the room meeting, greeting and charming a host of guests including USC supporters, library donors and celebs like Nancy Sinatra, who was emcee for the award portion of the ceremony.
Yes, Nancy was wearing her boots. She later pointed out that when she was briefly a student at USC, those boots did walk through the very same library where we were sitting. By the way, she was studying for a final in her Italian class — which she said she failed.
A little-known fact was revealed Friday night: She is a cousin to Madeline Puzo, dean of the USC School of Theatre. Just keeping things in the Italian family.
The dinner and award ceremony were in the awe-inspiring Los Angeles Times Reference Room with its gold and blue-coffered ceiling, designed by John D. Smeraldi, who also worked on the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel.
Glenn Sonneberg, USC Trustee and president of the board of USC Libraries, greeted guests and film critic and historian Leonard Maltin announced the Scripter winners.
Quinlan, who later stepped to the podium, said, “People are looking more and more to the printed word as a source for inspiration. They’re realizing that jumping off from something like a poem or graphic novel or book gives you freedom in a constructed environment. Going back and looking at the source material gives you a chance to reinterpret the film.”
In his acceptance speech, Mezrich said, “When you get that phone call that Aaron Sorkin is interested in adapting your book, it’s like getting hit by lightning. It’s also a little terrifying when you haven’t actually finished the book yet.”
Sorkin, no stranger to awards, won multiple Emmy Awards for his work on the NBC program, “The West Wing,” and is nominated for an Academy Award for his “Social Network” screenplay.
Other finalists nominated for the Scripter Award included Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy for “127 Hours,” adapted from Aaron Ralston’s autobiography, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place;” screenwriters Robert Harris and Roman Polanski, for “The Ghost Writer,” adapted from Harris’ novel, “The Ghost;” screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen, for “True Grit,” based on Charles Portis’ novel of the same name; and screenwriters Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini and author Daniel Woodrell, for “Winter’s Bone.”
Author Dennis Lehane was named the fourth annual USC Libraries Scripter Literary Achievement Award recipient. Lehane is the author of the books “Gone, Baby, Gone,” “Moonlight Mile,” “Shutter Island,” “The Given Day” and “Mystic River.”
Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning screenwriter Naomi Foner chaired the Scripter selection committee for the fourth consecutive year. Proceeds from the Scripter event support USC Libraries’ Endowed Collections program.