Two of this award season’s most unique contenders triumphed Sunday night, as the dark dramedy “Promising Young Woman” and the heavily improvised “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” took honors at the Writers Guild of America ceremony.
In the original-screenplay category, the “Promising Young Woman” writer-director Emerald Fennell faced stiff competition in the form of 13-time WGA Award nominee Aaron Sorkin, whose “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is also considered a top Oscar contender. But Fennell was nominated for a best-director Oscar while Sorkin was snubbed, and the WGA win for “Promising Young Woman” is another key laurel for that film as it heads into the homestretch of the season.
In his acceptance speech for “Borat,” Sacha Baron Cohen joked that the improvised movie may have won a screenplay award because it “employed 60 percent of the Writers Guild.” The large team of writers included Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman and Lee Kern, with a story by Baron Cohen, Hines, Swimer and Nina Pedrad. Because the movie is a sequel based on a pre-existing character, it won in the adapted screenplay category.
In three of the last five years — including 2020, when “Jojo Rabbit” and “Parasite” triumphed — the two films that won the WGA Awards also went on to win their respective Oscar races. But two years ago, the guild gave its original-screenplay prize to “Eighth Grade,” a script that Oscar voters had failed to even nominate.
And narrow rules of guild eligibility often preclude Oscar front-runners from taking part in the WGA Awards at all: This year, “Nomadland,” “Minari” and “The Father” were all ruled ineligible, since they were not written under a bargaining agreement from the WGA or its sister guilds. Still, if Fennell and the “Nomadland” writer Chloé Zhao go on to win the original and adapted screenplay Oscars, it will be the first year when both script races were won by women who were the sole credited writers of their films.
WGA nominees were asked to send acceptance speeches ahead of time; only the winner’s would be played during the ceremony, which was pretaped and hosted by Kal Penn. Here are some of the night’s other top winners:
Documentary screenplay: “The Dissident,” Mark Monroe, Bryan Fogel
Drama series: “The Crown,” Peter Morgan, Jonathan Wilson
Comedy series: “Ted Lasso,” Jane Becker, Leann Bowen, Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly, Bill Lawrence, Jamie Lee, Jason Sudeikis, Phoebe Walsh, Bill Wrubel. (“Ted Lasso” also won best new series.)
Original long form: “Mrs. America,” Tanya Barfield, Joshua Griffith, Sharon Hoffman, Boo Killebrew, Micah Schraft, April Shih, Dahvi Waller
Adapted long form: “The Queen’s Gambit,” Scott Frank, Allan Scott, based on the novel by Walter Tevis