Originally created 01/23/04

Lonesome stranger scripts lead Writers Guild Award nominees



LOS ANGELES -- Five movies about culture clashes and strangers in strange lands collected nominations Thursday for best original movie script from the Writers Guild of America.

Among the contenders for best original screenplay were "Bend It Like Beckham," about the daughter of a traditionalist Indian Sikh family in England who dreams of playing soccer; "Lost in Translation," with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson as lonely Americans in a Tokyo hotel; and "Dirty Pretty Things," about a Nigerian immigrant who uncovers grim dealings in London's underbelly.

The other nominees were "The Station Agent," about an embittered dwarf who makes friends despite trying to isolate himself, and "In America," director Jim Sheridan's semi-autobiographical tale of an Irish immigrant family struggling to survive in New York.

Sheridan collaborated on the screenplay with daughters Naomi, now 30, and Kirsten, 27.

"What father wouldn't be happy to be up there with his daughters?" he said Thursday. "This gets me so many brownie points with the family that it scares me."

He said he let his daughters do their own drafts of the script, "basically because I knew when the vanity and egocentricity of doing your own story is difficult. ... It was humbling. I would urge any parent to get their children to write a script about them."

In the category for best adapted screenplay, the true-life racehorse drama "Seabiscuit" and the J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" were picked to compete against "American Splendor," about comic book writer Harvey Pekar, and the novels-turned-movies "Cold Mountain" and "Mystic River."

"Seabiscuit" director Gary Ross, who adapted the screenplay from author Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling book, said he was grateful that other writers recognized his efforts to add a dramatic "spine" to the real-life story.

"It was such a famous and popular piece of history that it felt like a real challenge to make this a personal movie, which is the only way to move people," he said. "For me, it was about the interdependence of three people (jockey Red Pollard, trainer Tom Smith and owner Charles Howard) and how they pulled each other out of the depths of despair and crisis."

Television drama nominees included two episodes of "Law & Order: SVU," along with installments of "The West Wing," the original "Law & Order," "24" and the pilot episode of "The O.C."

Comedy show contenders were "Frasier," "Sex and the City" and two episodes of "Malcolm in the Middle," while "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," "Mad TV," "Real Time with Bill Maher" and the "Penn & Teller" urban-legend debunking show made up the nominees for best variety series writing.

Three episodes of "The Simpsons" dominated the animation script category, accompanied by "King of the Hill," "The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius" and "Futurama."

Winners will be announced Feb. 21, about a week before the Academy Awards.

On the Net:

http://www.wga.org