12 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The WGA shone a bright light on "Little Miss Sunshine" on Sunday night, bestowing upon the indie comedy its best original screenplay award, while Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" grabbed best adapted screenplay laurels to maintain its own Oscar momentum.

"Sunshine", a Fox Searchlight release written by Michael Arndt, overcame fellow category nominees "Babel", "The Queen", "Stranger Than Fiction" and "United 93". "Departed" -- a Warner Bros. Pictures release with a screenplay by William Monahan and based on the motion picture "Infernal Affairs" (written by Alan Mak and Felix Chong) -- bested "Borat", "The Devil Wears Prada", "Little Children" and "Thank You for Smoking".

Arndt thanked his agent and producers for helping him achieve "the screenwriters' dream of seeing their words up on the screen uncompromised and undiluted."

In Oscar's original screenplay category, "Sunshine" is going against a similar field but with "Letters From Iwo Jima" and "Pan's Labyrinth" subbing for "Stranger" and "United 93". Academy voters also will select from an adapted screenplay field in which "Departed" squares off against similar movies as figured in the WGA's same category but with "Notes on a Scandal" replacing "Prada".

The WGA held simultaneous ceremonies at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City and at the Hudson Theatre of the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York. Writer-actor Robert Wuhl presided at the WGA West's gala and actress-writer Tina Fey at the WGA East event.

At least a couple of the studio executives sprinkled throughout the Century City audience wondered whether any of the speakers would mention the WGA's impending talks for a new film and television contract, which expires in October. They didn't have long to wait.

In his welcoming remarks, WGAW president Patric Verrone joked that he would not subject the crowd to long speeches about "the guild's determination to work with our sister unions to preserve health and pension benefits," but then he went on in rapid-fire fashion to list other issues like new-media compensation that would figure in the talks. He also made a point of noting that the executive directors of the WGA, SAG and the DGA were on hand and seated together.

But the remarks served more as comic relief than a call to action. "There will be plenty of time for rambling diatribes at our town hall meetings once negotiations start," Verrone added.

Verrone also trumpeted a previously unannounced honorary award, bestowing the 2007 Robert Meltzer Award, to 12 former writer-producers of "America's Next Top Model". The WGAW president said the dozen were being lauded for "bravery" in striking the reality program in an unsuccessful bid to gain WGA union status.


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