’12 Years a Slave’ Writers Score Scripter Award

John Ridley

Adaptation award goes to the screenwriter and to the author of the original work

“12 Years a Slave” has been named the best book-to-screen adaptation of 2013 at the USC Libraries Scripter Awards, giving the late Solomon Northup a Hollywood award more than 150 years after he wrote the chronicle of the dozen years he spent in slavery in the 1840s.

The Scripter Award goes both to the writer of the script and to the author of the original work that was adapted, making Northup and screenwriter John Ridley co-winners of the award.

“Of all the things I’ve been through with this movie over the past few months, this one might mean the most, because it includes Solomon Northup,” Ridley told TheWrap after the ceremony.

Four of Northup’s descendants attended the Scripters and sat with Ridley and his family.

“12 Years a Slave” was selected over a field that also included Oscar screenplay nominees “Captain Phillips” and “Philomena,” as well as “The Spectacular Now” and “What Maisie Knew.”

Also read: ‘Slave’ Writer: Hollywood Making GOP Mistake of Not Tracking Blacks

Ridley (above) has long been the odds-on favorite to win the adapted-screenplay Oscar, where he will also be competing against “Before Midnight” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The latter film might have been considered a likely Scripter nominee over the little-seen Henry James adaptation “What Maisie Knew.” But it’s easy to imagine the Scripter jury uneasy about handing out a nomination that would in part honor convicted stock swindler Jordan Belfort, who wrote the memoir on which the film is based, and who is played in “Wolf” by Leonardo DiCaprio.

The choice was made by a jury chaired by screenwriters Naomi Foner and Howard Rodman, and including authors Michael Chabon and Michael Ondaatje, screenwriters Geoffrey Fletcher, Callie Khouri, Lawrence Kasdan and Stave Zaillian, producers Albert Berger and Gale Anne Hurd, and critics Kenneth Turan and Leonard Maltin.

Past Scripter winners include “Argo,” “The Social Network,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “No Country for Old Men” and “Children of Men.”

Although for most of its first 25 years the Scripters rarely chose the film that would go on to win the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, the Scripter jury has gotten less idiosyncratic and more mainstream in recent years. In five of the last six years, Academy voters and the Scripter jury have agreed.

Also read: 5 Ways to Write an Awards Contender

The winner was announced at a black-tie dinner in the Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library on the USC campus in Los Angeles.

Also at the ceremony, screenwriter Robert Towne was given the 2014 USC Libraries Literary Achievement Award for a body of work that has included the screenplays to “Chinatown,” “Shampoo” and “The Last Detail.” Towne currently writes for the TV series “Mad Men.”