Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and author Ben Mezrich, respectively, were given the 23rd annual USC Libraries Scripter Award for the film The Social Network and the book The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal, upon which it was based. Film critic and historian Leonard Maltin announced the winners at the black-tie banquet Feb. 4.
“When you get that phone call that Aaron Sorkin is interested in adapting your book, it’s like getting hit by lightning,” Mezrich said.
“I sat down in the movie there and the movie opens. There is that line, ‘dating you is like dating a stairmaster.’ At that moment, I thought, this is the best movie I’ve ever seen,” Mezrich added.
Sorkin, who won multiple Emmy Awards for his work on The West Wing and is nominated for an Academy Award for his Social Network screenplay, related an incident from early in his career that put entertainment awards in perspective.
“Early one morning a few years ago, my father came over to my apartment in New York City, where I was living at the time because the Academy Award nominations were being announced, and there was some hope that a movie that I wrote that year would be nominated,” Sorkin explained. “When it wasn’t, my father turned to me and said, ‘Aaron, how many people in the world do you think woke up this morning with even reasonable expectation that something like this might happen.’ That’s when I discovered that for most people it’s an honor just to be nominated … in my family, it’s an honor just to be overlooked.
“You can imagine how they and I feel about getting recognition like this, from a group of people like this,” he said.
The Scripter win for The Social Network adds to its slew of accolades. The film has been named best film by the Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Toronto film critics associations, among others, as well as by the Golden Globes and the National Board of Review. The film is nominated for eight Academy Awards and six BAFTA awards.
The Scripter awards gala, presented by the Friends of the USC Libraries, honors the year’s best cinematic adaptation of the printed word. During the ceremony, one Twitter follower described the award as “the most civilized awards show of all.”
With filmmaker Taylor Hackford ‘67 and Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren serving as honorary dinner chairs, master of ceremonies Nancy Sinatra welcomed the capacity crowd gathered in the Los Angeles Times Reference Room of USC’s Doheny Memorial Library.
“We know that a great story might transport us, but it’s about more than escapism,” Sinatra said about the importance of writing creatively and the unique significance of the Scripter. “We know that history comes to us through stories and that storytelling helps us understand ourselves as much as it helps deepen our understanding of the world.”
“The great stories yet to be written will depend on all those that came before … and that’s why a great library is important to the past, present and future of the creative arts and why we’re here to honor accomplished storytellers,” Sinatra said.
The other finalists for this year’s Scripter, in alphabetical order by film title, were: screenwriters Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy for 127 Hours, adapted from Aron Ralston’s autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place; screenwriters Robert Harris and Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer, adapted from Harris’ novel The Ghost; screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen for True Grit, based on Charles Portis’ classic Western novel; and screenwriters Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini and author Daniel Woodrell for Winter’s Bone.
Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning screenwriter Naomi Foner chaired the Scripter selection committee for the fourth consecutive year.
Author Dennis Lehane was named the fourth annual USC Libraries Scripter Literary Achievement Award recipient for his body of work. Lehane is the author of such books as Gone, Baby, Gone, Moonlight Mile, Shutter Island, The Given Day and Mystic River, for which he received a Scripter Award in 2004.
“[Dennis Lehane] has said that, were it not for a specific place, he never would have become a writer. He grew up in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston,” noted USC Libraries dean Catherine Quinlan in announcing the award. “He has demonstrated again and again his talent for carving convincing, creative landscapes out of words and populating them with intriguing characters and gripping mysteries.”
Lehane, who was unable to attend the ceremony, said in a statement that “It’s an honor to receive this award. My profound gratitude to the Friends of the USC Libraries.”
He added: “It would be disingenuous of me not to note the depth of gratitude I owe the exceptional screenwriters who have adapted my novels for film: Brian Helgeland, Ben Affleck, Aaron Stockard and most recently, Laeta Kalogridis, whose superb craftsmanship enabled her to take a near-unfilmable novel and turn it into pure cinema.”
David and Gracie Fermelia were the Premiere Sponsors and Verna B. Dauterive was the Gold Sponsor of this year’s event.
The USC Libraries welcomed Audi of America as the transportation sponsor for the ceremony. A fleet of Audi A8 sedans chauffeured nominees and special guests to the event.
Final Draft Inc. also supported Scripter 2011 by providing copies of Final Draft 8 to USC students. The libraries will make the scriptwriting software available through the USC Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Library Multimedia Commons.
Final Draft will complement the suite of authoring software the Multimedia Commons offers students and will provide a tool for storytelling and completing coursework while drawing on the riches of the libraries’ collections.
Proceeds from the Scripter gala support the USC Libraries’ Endowed Collections program. For more information about Scripter — including additional images from the ceremony and information on sponsorship opportunities for next year’s event — visit http://scripter.usc.edu