Ending not yet written for screenplay nominees

Thu Feb 21, 2008 3:56am EST
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By Stephen Galloway

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Ten screenplays will compete for two awards at the Oscars on Sunday, and they couldn't be more different.

"That's what is so amazing about this year," says Ronald Harwood, nominated for adapting "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." "It's so diverse. And there isn't one front-runner, unlike the year (1984) when I was nominated for 'The Dresser,' when 'Terms of Endearment' got everything."

Front-runners have emerged in both the original and adapted categories, but they are by no means guaranteed to win, even those with proven success at other awards shows.

In the original screenplay category, five pictures compete: "Juno" (written by Diablo Cody), "The Savages" (written by Tamara Jenkins), "Lars and the Real Girl" (written by Nancy Oliver), "Michael Clayton" (written by Tony Gilroy) and "Ratatouille" (with a screenplay by Brad Bird from a story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco and Bird).

"Juno" appears to lead the pack. The comedy has won a host of awards for first-time screenwriter Cody, including honors from the Writers Guild of America and Broadcast Film Critics Assn. True, she lost out at the Golden Globes, when Joel and Ethan Coen took the prize with "No Country for Old Men." But the Globes make no distinction between original and adapted screenplays; the Oscars split them in two.

"Juno's" front-runner status marks a remarkable coming-of-age for the onetime stripper who admits she didn't have a clue how to write a screenplay when she moved from blogging to screenwriting. "I knew nothing about structure," she says.

Like "Juno," Oliver's "Lars" is a comedy-drama that centers on a quirky, off-center character -- and, as with Cody and "Juno," this was Oliver's first produced film. A writer on HBO's "Six Feet Under," Oliver came up with the idea while working for a company through which she discovered a Web site (www.realdoll.com) devoted to selling ultrarealistic synthetic dolls.

Turning her discovery into a full-length screenplay, however, meant forgetting the gimmicky aspect and exploring what kind of person would fall in love with a doll. And that meant centering on issues of loneliness that she says have always interested her. "The reasons why he fell for her are completely in there; all the reasons why he meets her unfold (in the script)," she says.   Continued...

<p>Ronald Harwood poses with his award for Adapted Screenplay for "The Diving Bell and Butterfly" at the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards ceremony at The Royal Opera House in London February 10, 2008. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez</p>