The way the Writers Guild divvies up writing credits has always been a bit of a mystery, especially when there are controversies around who wrote what. When Oscar nominations get thrown into the mix, it gets even more interesting. Back in December, I interviewed Alfonso Cuarón, director of Children of Men, and he had some interesting things to say about his take on the writing creds for the film (the WGA credited Cuaron and his writing partner Timothy Sexton, along with three other writers -- David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, who had worked on earlier versions of scripts for the film).

When I interviewed Cuarón, the fiery director had this to say about the script that he used in filming Children of Men:

" ... So I asked my writing partner, Tim Sexton, to read the book, and I said, okay, I don't want to read the book because I don't want to sidetrack myself or second-guess myself. I had a very clear vision of the movie I wanted to do. So I said to him, you read the book, and based on this movie I'm telling you, there are elements of the book which you will write into the movie. That's what happened."

More after the jump ...
I asked Cuarón to elaborate on the writing credits and who actually wrote the script, and he was quite adamant in his take on that subject. Here's an excerpt from the full interview:

Cinematical: So those other writers who have writing credit, they were not sitting around a table with you and Tim, writing the screenplay?

AC: No, no, not at all. It's all a big game, you see. If you are a writer who chooses also to direct, your guild is going to punish you. And deal with credits in a different way than if you were not directing. But anyway, that's the way it is.

Cinematical: That's interesting to hear, because when I saw the film, I knew there were five writers credited, and often that makes for a film that's a mess. But your film doesn't feel that way at all.

AC: Well, that's because these other writers, they did not exist in this movie. It was me, and Tim Sexton, and Clive Owen. That's all. And by the same token, I'm willing to give credit to whoever really deserves credit for the film. And except for Tim Sexton and myself, for me, all these other writers, it's just studio development work that I'm not even interested in discussing, because I don't know what they did, and I couldn't care less.

I met with one writer who was trying to turn this into a generic action movie, and the other two I didn't even meet, didn't even know existed. But by the same token, Clive Owen, now he was a writer. He got involved in this project with Tim and myself, we locked ourselves in a hotel room, and first we went over his character. And he had so much insight that we decided, Tim and myself, that Clive should be involved with the rest of the writing process, even if it was not about his character. I started to admire his instincts, and I asked him to be involved with the rest of the process.

I dredged this up because I just read an interview over on Monsters and Critics with Mark Fergus, one of the screenwriters credited on Children of Men, and he has a very different take on the contribution he and Ostby made to the final script:

"We worked on that a long time ago, actually. It was our second job that we got as working writers. It was a real tough novel to crack, and the idea for us was to adapt it in a manner that would attract a really good director. We worked on it for about two years and were able to snag Alfonso [Cuaron]. We were so excited because we thought were going to work with him, but he has his own writing partner, so essentially other than a few conversations and sort of a bridging from where we were to where he wanted to go, we realized he was going to take it from there. It's one of those weird cases where everybody sort of brought something really new to it and transformed it to something kind of unusual and better and better. I heard Blade Runner kinda went that way, which is cool."

It's interesting to see two very different takes on who contributed what to the final script, particularly since Cuarón said that he never even knew anything about these "other two writers" (presumably Fergus and Ostby) had contributed or that they even existed, whereas Fergus seems to be implying that they had conversations directly with Cuarón about the work they had done up to that point and the direction Cuarón intended to take the film.

If the film ends up winning for Best Adapted Screenplay, there might be an interesting tussle over who gets the limited mic-time to give their acceptance speeches. I wonder if they'll reach some sort of gentlemen's agreement over the speech time beforehand, so in case the script does win, they at least won't give the public perception that there's any kind of dissent over the way the screenplay creds on the film were dished out.

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