"Support for both films was incredibly strong and, in the end, the committee could not eliminate either of these worthy contenders," said Academy Award(R)-winning screenwriter Robert Towne, who chairs this year's selection committee. "This unprecedented finish is a fitting end to a year with so many outstanding film adaptations. The selection committee deserves special recognition for their thorough and exemplary deliberation on the source material, the screenplays and the resulting films. It's a difficult job and the group went above and beyond the call of duty this year."
The annual black-tie Scripter gala recognizing the winning collaborations will be held Sunday, February 15, in the Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library on the USC campus. Author Dennis Lehane and screenwriter Brian Helgeland will be honored for their work on "Mystic River," while author Laura Hillenbrand and screenwriter Gary Ross will be feted for "Seabiscuit." Actress Sharon Gless will serve as master of ceremonies and Hal Kanter will return as grand master of ceremonies.
"Mystic River" explores the interwoven history of three men, the terrible events that tainted their boyhood and shaped their futures, and the irrevocable choices they ultimately make. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film is set in Boston and stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney. "Mystic River" was named best picture by the National Board of Review. The film garnered five Golden Globe nominations, including best picture (drama), director, actor (Sean Penn), supporting actor (Tim Robbins) and screenplay.
Dennis Lehane has written seven novels: "A Drink Before the War"; "Darkness, Take My Hand"; "Sacred"; "Gone, Baby, Gone"; "Prayers For Rain"; "Mystic River"; and his current release, "Shutter Island." A finalist for the Winship/PEN Award, "Mystic River" won both the Anthony and Barry awards for best novel as well as the Massachusetts Book Award in Fiction bestowed by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. A two-time winner of the Dilys Award, Lehane won the Shamus Award for Best First Novel in 1995.
Screenwriter Brian Helgeland is a previous Scripter, Academy Award(R) and Writers Guild of America award winner for "L.A. Confidential," an adaptation that he co-wrote with Curtis Hanson, based on James Ellroy's novel. He has written and directed three films: "The Order," "A Knight's Tale" and "Payback." "Mystic River" is the second film he has adapted for Clint Eastwood, following 2002's "Blood Work." He recently adapted A.J. Quinnell's novel "Man on Fire," the film version of which stars Denzel Washington and will be released in April. His other film credits include "The Postman," "Conspiracy Theory," "Assassins," "Highway to Hell" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street IV."
"Seabiscuit" tells the true story of a down-and-out racehorse who beat the odds and inspired the imagination of a nation worn down by the Depression. The horse's fate is intertwined with that of a trio of men -- his owner, jockey and trainer -- who overcome their own personal obstacles to emerge as winners. The film, which Ross also directed, stars Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper and William H. Macy. "Seabiscuit" received two Golden Globe nominations: best picture (drama) and best director.
Laura Hillenbrand has been writing about history and thoroughbred racing since 1988 and has been a contributing writer/editor for Equus magazine since 1989. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, American Heritage, ABC Sports Online, The New York Post and many other publications. She is a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award, the highest journalistic honor in thoroughbred racing. She also served as a consultant on the PBS American Experience documentary on Seabiscuit's life. An alumnus of Kenyon College, Hillenbrand lives in Washington, D.C.
Gary Ross earned an Academy Award(R) nomination and industry-wide recognition for his first produced screenplay, "Big," the 1988 blockbuster starring Tom Hanks. He drew on his background as a former Capitol Hill intern for his 1993 political comedy, "Dave," and garnered a second Oscar nomination. He directed his next script, the critically acclaimed social comedy "Pleasantville," which starred "Seabiscuit's" Tobey Maguire and William H. Macy, along with Joan Allen, Jeff Daniels and Reese Witherspoon. Ross remains active in politics, having written speeches for President Clinton and other key figures, and in civic and charitable work. A past president of the board of library commissioners for the city of Los Angeles, Ross was awarded the 1999 Light of Learning Award by the Los Angeles Public Library.
The other finalists for the 16th Scripter Award were: author Charles Frazier and screenwriter Anthony Minghella for "Cold Mountain"; author J.R.R. Tolkien and screenwriters Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson for "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King"; and author Patrick O'Brian and screenwriters Peter Weir & John Collee for "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World."
The Scripter Award is given annually to honor authors and screenwriters for the best adaptation among English-language films based on books or novellas. Past winners include "The Hours," "A Beautiful Mind," "Wonder Boys," "The English Patient," "Sense and Sensibility," "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Schindler's List."
For more information, visit http://scripter.usc.edu or call 213-740-2328.