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USC Scripter Award nominees don't write the script for Oscars

January 6, 2009 |  4:48 pm

Don't count on today's nominees for the USC Scripter Award — "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Iron Man," "The Reader," "Revolutionary Road," and "Slumdog Millionaire" — to forecast the line-up in the adapted screenplay category at the Academy Awards. Scripter_2 The prize honors films adapted only from novels, short stories, even comic books. Stage-to-screen adaptations like "Doubt" and "Frost/Nixon" are not eligible for this award, and neither are foreign-language films like "The Class" and "Gomorrah." Thus, Wednesday's announcement of contenders for the WGA kudos should be a better harbinger of the Oscars race to come. Indeed, the winner of the Scripter has gone on to take the Oscar only five times in the last two decades, including last year's champ "No Country for Old Men." The other double winners — "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), "L.A. Confidential" (1997), "Sense and Sensibility" (1995) and "Schindler's List" (1993).

These awards, administered by USC, honor "the written word, creative collaboration and the profound results of transforming one artistic medium into another." The honor is shared by the original author and adapter. The winning film will be announced at a Jan. 30 gala at the USC Doheny Library.

The committee -- chaired by Oscar-nominated writer Naomi Foner ("Running on Empty"), and including three-time Oscar nominated scribe Lawrence Kasdan ("The Big Chill," "The Accidental Tourist" and "Grand Canyon") and Tony Award winning playwright Tony Kushner ("Angels in America") -– considered 58 films to determine these final five:

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" -- screenplay by Eric Roth, who shares story credit with Robin Swicord; based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Iron Man" -- screenplay by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway; based on the comic book series created by Stan Lee and Don Heck

"The Reader" -- screenplay by David Hare; based on the novel by Bernhard Schlink

"Revolutionary Road" -- screenplay by Justin Haythe; based on the novel by Richard Yates

"Slumdog Millionaire"-- screenplay by Simon Beaufoy; based on the novel "Q&A" by Vikas Swarup.

Although the inclusion of "Iron Man" over "The Dark Knight" has raised a few eyebrows, don't discount the fact that two of the four writers on "Iron Man" -- Fergus and Ostby -- took the Scripter two years ago for "Children of Men." Hare was a winner here six years ago for "The Hours." However, while both of those Scripter winning scripts contended at the Oscars, neither prevailed, with "The Departed" winning in 2006 and "The Pianist" in 2002.

Compare the nominees of both awards over the last four years:

"Into the Wild"
X - "No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

"Away From Her"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
X - "No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

X - "Children of Men"
"The Devil Wears Prada"
"The Illusionist"
"The Last King of Scotland"
"Notes on a Scandal"

X - "The Departed"
"Children of Men"
"Notes on a Scandal"
"Little Children"

X - "Capote"
"Brokeback Mountain"
"The Constant Gardener"
"A History of Violence"

X - "Brokeback Mountain"
"A History of Violence"

"The Constant Gardener"

X - "Million Dollar Baby"
"The Bourne Supremacy"
"The Door in the Floor"
"Friday Night Lights"

X - "Sideways"
"Before Sunset"
"Finding Neverland"
"Million Dollar Baby"
"The Motorcycle Diaries"

Photo: Miramax