While it was fun to watch the Screen Actors Guild awards announced Sunday night, with more than the usual share of deserving nominees and winners, and to listen to the expressions of solidarity with the striking Writers Guild, it was more than a little jarring to see that, as usual, almost no actual writers were acknowledged for their contributions.
I waited in vain to hear NBCC fiction finalist Cormac McCarthy mentioned in conjunction with the multiple honors for “No Country For Old Men,’‘(the film’s cast, honored for best ensemble work, above), or a nod to NBCC award winner Alice Munro for the short story upon which “Away From Her’’ was based (Julie Christie did thank Sarah Polley, who adapted it, but that seemed more for her role as a director and guiding light). Daniel Day Lewis’ tribute to Heath Ledger was moving, but somehow Upton Sinclair’s role as the progenitor of “There Will Be Blood” was not noted. (The film was inspired by his 1927 novel “Oil.”) David Chase’s name came up in the course of the “Sopranos’’ sweep, but leaving aside the merits of this particular labor dispute, the event seemed like yet another example of the lowly place writers occupy, at least, publicly, in Hollywood.
I vividly remember the year “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’’ was honored at the Academy Awards ceremony, but none of the speechifiers saw fit to mention that it was based on Ken Kesey’s book. The talented, handsome and beautiful actors and actresses seemed well-meaning and sincere in their remarks, and no doubt the slight was inadvertent, but one wonders if they thought they would have been up there if no one were around to put words in their mouth.
The whole thing was reminiscent of the possibly apocryphal story about Robert Riskin, the screenwriter for “It Happened One Night,’’ who got frustrated after one too many disagreements with Frank Capra, waved a blank page in front of him, and said: “Put the famous Capra touch on that!”
While it was enjoyable to watch the thespians strut and fret their stuff, hopefully as a prelude to resolving the current dispute, it would have been nice, particularly under the circumstances, to see the humble wordsmiths mentioned. Attention must be paid!—NBCC member Paul Wilner