One of the most poignant moments to come out of last Saturday’s Deadline event THE CONTENDERS was the story relayed by screenwriter Danny Strong and co-producer Pam Williams demonstrating the late Laura Ziskin‘s unbridled passion for getting Lee Daniels’ The Butler to the screen against all odds. As one of the film’s key producers (she is posthumously eligible for a Best Picture Oscar and PGA nomination along with Williams and Daniels) her dedication and tenacity to what would eventually become a hit film and true contender even was evident the week she died as this segment powerfully proves.
The Contenders 2013: The Emotional Story Of How Laura Ziskin Fought To Get ‘The Butler’ Made Right Down To Her Dying Moments (Video)
Notes from Monday night’s 23rd annual Pen Center USA Literary Awards Festival:
These awards, handed out at a ritzy gala at the Beverly Hills Hotel, celebrate the “freedom to write” and generally honor books. But there were a few showbiz awards thrown in including the Screenplay honor to Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty and its television counterpart to Danny Strong for HBO’s Game Change. Kickstarter even got in on the game, winning the Award Of Honor. But the big news was happening out in front of the hotel as the Motion Picture Editors Guild followed through on threats reported on Deadline to protest the Freedom To Write award to Sonia Nassery Cole, director/co-writer/producer of Afghanistan’s 2010 Foreign Language Oscar entry The Black Tulip. Several members were there with signs claiming she stiffed them back pay for their work on the film. The protest didn’t seem to dampen the mood inside the ballroom (there was no acknowledgement of the dispute) as she won a hearty ovation when Oscar-nominated actress Shoreh Aghdashloo introduced her to receive the evening’s final award. Cole’s speech focused heavily on the fight for freedom and peace in Afghanistan, pointing out her time there was “Hell on Earth”. Her anti-Taliban book and film enabled her to fight against them, she said.”Freedom is something I have been fighting for my entire life, and for me freedom is not free. We have to fight for it every single day of our lives, especially when you go to a country like Afghanistan,” she said, although the protesters outside would probably say making a movie is “not free” either.
Rachael Horovitz, the producer who originally set up the Michael Lewis book Moneyball at Columbia about overachieving Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane, has found a new sports figure to hang a picture on. Horovitz has teamed with Recount screenwriter Danny Strong to option the Wil Haygood biography Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson. Haygood will write the screenplay. He met Strong on The Butler, the Sony Pictures Entertainment film that has Lee Daniels attached to direct and Laura Ziskin to produce a film about Eugene Allen, who observed the civil rights struggle as an eight-term White House butler and was brought back after retirement to see Barack Obama inaugurated as the first African American president. Strong wrote that script, based on a series of articles that Haygood’ wrote for the Washington Post.