2023 USC Scripter Awards Finalists Preview Best Adapted Screenplay Race

In a year in which the frontrunners for Best Adapted Screenplay are still unclear, the USC Libraries naming the finalists for the 35th annual USC Libraries Scripter Awards offer more insight into what scripts most stand out. The award, which honors the writers of the year’s most accomplished film and episodic series adaptations, as well as the writers of the works on which they are based, is a major bellwether for the Oscars race, as its winners overlapped with the Best Adapted Screenplay winners from 2011 to 2019. Its voter base is a mix of academics, industry professionals, and critics.

As expected, Sarah Polley’s screenplay for “Women Talking,” an adaptation of Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel, of which the filmmaker has already won several critics awards for, is among this year’s Scripter Award finalists. Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Living” script (a Tolstoy novella adaptation) and Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s “She Said” script (an adaptation of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s 2019 nonfiction book of the same name) are two finalists that have also been recognized throughout awards season.

The last two finalists, however, read much more as wildcards. Peter Craig, Ehren Kruger, Justin Marks, Christopher McQuarrie, and Eric Warren’s script for sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” was an early favorite that seemed to have been eclipsed by more recent scripts, while Guillermo del Toro, Patrick McHale, and Matthew Robbins’ script for “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” a twist on Carlo Collodi’s iconic fairy tale, is a relative newcomer to the race that seemed to have not yet built any steam.

The two films being Scripter Award finalists indicate that the Best Adapted Screenplay nominations may look slightly different than anticipated, as scripts like Samuel D. Hunter’s play adaptation “The Whale,” or Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” follow-up “Glass Onion,” both frontrunners in the race at one point in time, did not make the cut. Though Oscars nominations voting has now closed, Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise,” Lena Dunham’s “Catherine, Called Birdy,” and Dean Fleischer-Camp, Elisabeth Holm, and Nick Paley’s “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” are examples of on the bubble contenders that could have used the boost, especially since the two former screenplays are eligible for a 2023 WGA Awards nomination (while Scripter Award finalists “Living” and “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” are not).

Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki in “The Crown”

Keith Bernstein / Netflix

The 35th annual USC Libraries Scripter Awards have a category for television as well. Not only does this year mark the first time Netflix hit “The Crown” has been recognized by the awards body, newcomers “Slow Horses” (Apple TV+) and “Fleishman Is in Trouble” (FX), which have yet to breakthrough at the Emmys, are finalists here too.

The 2023 Scripter selection committee selected the finalists and 67 television adaptations. Howard Rodman, USC professor and past president of the Writers Guild of America, West, chairs the 2023 committee.

The USC Libraries will announce the winning authors and screenwriters at a black-tie ceremony on Saturday, March 4, 2023, in the historic Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library at the University of Southern California, marking the awards big in-person return, should COVID safety protocols allow.

The finalist writers for film adaptation are, in alphabetical order by film title:

Guillermo del Toro, Patrick McHale, and Matthew Robbins for “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” based on the fairy tale “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi

Kazuo Ishiguro for “Living” based on the novella “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Leo Tolstoy

Rebecca Lenkiewicz for “She Said” based on the nonfiction book “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement” by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

Peter Craig, Ehren Kruger, Justin Marks, Christopher McQuarrie, and Eric Warren for
“Top Gun: Maverick” based on characters from the 1983 “California” magazine article “Top Guns” by Ehud Yonay

Screenwriter Sarah Polley and novelist Miriam Toews for “Women Talking”

The finalist writers for episodic series are, in alphabetical order by series title:

Peter Morgan, for the episode “Couple 31,” from “The Crown,” based on his stage play “The Audience”

Taffy Brodesser-Akner for the episode “The Liver,” from “Fleishman Is in Trouble,” based on her book of the same name

Will Smith for the episode “Failure’s Contagious,” from “Slow Horses,” based on the novel by Mick Herron

J. T. Rogers for the episode “Yoshino” from “Tokyo Vice,” based on the memoir “Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan” by Jake Adelstein

Dustin Lance Black for the episode “When God Was Love,” from “Under the Banner of Heaven” based on the nonfiction work by Jon Krakauer

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