Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman's fictional, free-wheeling screenplay for the film, "Shakespeare in Love," won the Writers Guild of America Award in the category of Best Original Screenplay, Feb. 20.
The screenplay, which affectionately addresses Elizabethan creative lives and lifestyles, beat out competitors "Saving Private Ryan," "The Truman Show," "Bulworth" and "The Opposite of Sex."
Stoppard and Norman took home Golden Globes for their "Shakespeare" screenplay and, with this latest award, are front-runners for the Academy Award for best original screenplay.
The WGA's 51st annual awards were announced Feb. 20 in Beverly Hills and New York.
Stoppard, of course, is the language-and-history-loving playwright whose work includes Indian Ink, Arcadia, The Real Thing, Jumpers and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. * In other theatre-related Oscar news: Nominations for the 71st Annual Academy Award were announced at 5:38 AM (PT) Feb. 9 and the stock of Queen Elizabeth I went way up with Best Picture nominations for "Shakespeare in Love," in which the Virgin Queen is played by Judi Dench, who earned a nom for Best Supporting Actress. Marc Norman and playwright Stoppard were nominated for Best Screenplay -- Original as well.
Meanwhile, also competing for Best Picture is the surprise nominee, "Elizabeth," the larger-than-life depiction of the early years of Elizabeth I (1533-1603). Cate Blanchett earned a Best Actress nomination for playing the young, feisty queen, whose late reign coincided with Shakespeare's career.
Other nominations for "Shakespeare in Love" include Actress in a Leading Role Gwyneth Paltrow, who played the Bard's muse; Actor in a Supporting Role Geoffrey Rush, as a desperate Elizabethan-era theatre producer; Art Direction; Cinematography; Costume Design; Directing; Film Editing; Makeup; Original Musical of Comedy Score; and Sound.
In other theatre-related Oscar noms, Brenda Blethyn was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her blowsy mother role in the film, "Little Voice," based on Jim Cartwright's play, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. But Jane Horrocks, who created the Little Voice stage role in England, was not recognized for her film performance, despite the range of her character -- from addled, catatonic waif to big-voiced vocal interpreter (aping Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, among others). Michael Caine, who won a Golden Globe for his role as the tacky promoter of the would-be star in "Little Voice," did not earn a nom.
Stage star Ian McKellan was nominated for his role as the aging film director, James Whale, in "Gods and Monsters."
Winners will be announced at the 71st Annual Academy Awards March 21.
For a complete list, check out the Academy Award web site, www.oscar.com.
-- By Kenneth Jones