The films "Shakespeare in Love" and "Out of Sight" won top honors Saturday night at the 51st annual Writers Guild Awards.
Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard won for their original screenplay for the lusty romantic romp "Shakespeare in Love," at the black-tie ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
"This is very cool," said Norman. The erudite British playwright Stoppard hoped "Shakespeare in Love" would change people's perceptions of him and open more doors to write in Hollywood. "I like being here," he said.
Norman and Stoppard previously won the New York Film Critics Circle and Golden Globe honors and are also nominated for an Academy Award.
The Writers Guild of America honored Scott Frank for best screenplay based on material previously produced or published for his adaptation of Elmore Leonard's crime caper "Out of Sight." Frank previously had adapted Leonard's "Get Shorty."
"I do feel a little bit guilty because I've been stealing from Elmore's books for years," he said. Frank also received the National Society of Film Critics award and is nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay.
On the television side, Bill Cain won for episodic drama for his "Proofs for the Existence of God" script from the short-lived, controversial 1997-98 ABC series "Nothing Sacred." Rob Greenberg picked up the award for episodic comedy for his "Frasier's Imaginary Friend" episode of NBC's "Frasier."
Nina Shengold won for original long form for the Lifetime drama "Labor of Love," and James Henerson received a guild award for adapted long form for the CBS "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation "The Love Letter."
Several special awards also were handed out during the two-hour-plus ceremony. Paul Schrader, writer and director of the 1998 film "Affliction," received the Laurel Award for Screen, the guild's highest honor for screenwriting.
Schrader told the audience he had written an acceptance speech on the plane but was too "drunk to read it anymore. This is the first award I've ever received for screenwriting," he said, adding that out of the 18 scripts he'd written over the past 20 years, 11 were on speculation, not commissioned. "I'm the first recipient to work primarily on spec," he said.
David Milch, executive producer and co-creator of ABC's "NYPD Blue," received the annual Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television, given to writers who have "advanced the literature of television through the years, and who have made outstanding contributions to the profession of television writer."
Kirk Douglas presented the rare Lt. Robert Meltzer Award for bravery to the late Paul Jarrico, the blacklisted screenwriter who fought the Hollywood blacklist and worked tirelessly to restore blacklisted writers' credits to the films on which they worked. Jarrico died in late 1997 in a car accident after driving home from an event honoring those who were blacklisted. His widow, Lea Benedetti Jarrico, accepted the award.
"He acted according to his instincts," said his widow. "His instincts were good. Paul was and will always remain my true hero."
Presenter Hal Kanter was the only person to mention two-time Oscar-winning director Elia Kazan, who is set to receive a special Academy Award next month. Kazan was a star witness for the House Un-American Activities Committee and informed on several of his closest friends.
"I am ambivalent about honoring Elia Kazan," Kanter said, adding that he hoped the director would apologize for his actions of nearly 50 years ago.
At the end of the ceremony, the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation handed out leaflets asking those who will be attending the Oscars not to stand and applaud Kazan when he receives his award on March 21.
The winners Saturday were:
Screenplay written directly for the screen: Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, "Shakespeare in Love"
Screenplay based on material previously produced or published: Scott Frank, "Out of Sight," based on the novel by Elmore Leonard
Original long form: Nina Shengold, "Labor of Love," Lifetime.
Adapted long form: James Henerson, "The Love Letter, CBS
Episodic drama: Bill Cain, "Proofs for the Existence of God" ("Nothing Sacred"), ABC
Episodic comedy: Rob Greenberg, "Frasier's Imaginary Friend" ("Frasier"), NBC
Comedy/variety--music, awards, tributes, specials: Tim Doyle, "Ellen: A Hollywood Tribute," ABC
Comedy/variety (including talk) series: "Dennis Miller Live," HBO
Daytime serials: "All My Children" (ABC)
Documentary--current events: David Grubin, "Truman" ("The American Experience"), PBS
Children's script: Christine Ferraro, "Telly as Jack" ("Sesame Street"), PBS
News--regularly scheduled, bulletin or breaking report: Stuart H. Chamberlain Jr., "World News This Week," ABC Radio Network
Morgan Cox Award for exemplary service to the guild: Del Reisman
Valentine Davies Award for professional and community service: Barry Kemp
Edmund H. North Award for leadership and professional achievement: Frank Pierson
Paul Selvin Award for script embodying constitutional civil rights and liberties: Frank Military, "Blind Faith," Showtime
Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television: David Milch
Laurel Award for Screen: Paul Schrader
Lt. Robert Meltzer Award: Paul Jarrico