‘Chinatown’s’ Robert Towne to head Scripter Award panel

Robert Towne, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Chinatown,” will chair the selection committee for the USC Scripter Award, which honors the year’s best English-language film adaptation of a book or novella.

Bestowed annually since 1989 by the USC Friends of the Libraries, the award is billed as the only honor that recognizes both the author and screenwriter for a film adaptation.

“Adaptations offer unique challenges to the screenwriter, a delicate and sometimes indelicate balance of interpretive and creative skills,” Towne said. Towne’s committee will be made up of Writers Guild of America members, fiction and nonfiction authors, film industry executives, USC faculty and members of the Friends of the USC Libraries.

Panelists will choose five finalists, and ultimately a winner, from among all English-language films based on books or novellas written the previous year.


Last year’s winners were screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and biographer Sylvia Nasar, honored for their work on “A Beautiful Mind.”

Past chairmen of the committee include screenwriters Steven Zaillian, Scott Frank and Lawrence Kasdan.

Towne’s scripts for “The Last Detail,” “Chinatown” and “Shampoo” were nominated for Oscars in consecutive years. Other screenwriting credits include “Mission: Impossible,” “The Firm,” “Love Affair,” “The Two Jakes” and “Days of Thunder.”

He also contributed uncredited scenes to such films as “The Godfather,” “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Parallax View.”

He is writing “Mission: Impossible III” and will direct his adaptation of John Fante’s “Ask the Dust.” He has also directed his scripts for “Personal Best,” “Tequila Sunrise” and “Without Limits,” and has worked as a script doctor on films including “Armageddon” and “Crimson Tide.”

Scripter Award winners will be honored at a March 15 dinner at USC’s Doheny Memorial Library.