Trumbo scripter John McNamara will be this year’s recipient of the WGA’s Paul Selvin Award, which honors writers whose work “embodies the spirit of the constitutional and civil right liberties that are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere.” McNamara will be recognized, along with other honorees, at the 2016 Writers Guild Awards L.A. ceremony on Saturday, February 13, at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza.
WGA West president Howard Rodman said that though the guild has given the award since 1989, “It might as well have been purpose-built for John McNamara’s Trumbo. In shining light on a dark corner of our history, while at the same time illuminating Dalton Trumbo from within, John McNamara has both illustrated and embodied the importance of courageous writing.”
Ironically, Trumbo was kicked out of the guild’s forerunner – the old Screenwriters Guild – in 1947 after he was sent to prison for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committees’ probe of suspected communists in Hollywood. While blacklisted, he continued to write screenplays using fake names and fronts – most notably Roman Holiday and The Brave Ones. He wasn’t readmitted to the guild until he helped break the blacklist in 1960 when his real name was included in the screen credits of two films that year – Exodus and Spartacus. In show of solidarity, President-elect John F. Kennedy crossed a picket line of protestors to watch Spartacus in a Washington, DC theater.
“I want to thank the Writers Guild of America, West for stunning me with surprise and filling me with gratitude,” McNamara said. “This is an award shared by my band of brothers and sisters, we few, we happy few. More on those folks soon. The movie Trumbo exists mainly because I met several blacklisted screenwriters while I was a student at NYU. Arthur Laurents, Waldo Salt and Ring Lardner, Jr. eloquently and selflessly brought that dark time to life for me, while Ian McLellan Hunter painted a both ennobling and warty portrait of his good friend Dalton Trumbo. In the same way I share this award with biographer Bruce Cook, ShivHans, Bleecker Street, director Jay Roach and the crew, Michael London and our fellow producers, Bryan Cranston and the whole cast, I share it with my four fellow writers whose words first convinced me this story needed telling. A story that obviously wouldn’t exist without Dalton Trumbo and the improbably brave stand he and his family took against a perfect storm of repression, fighting for that first American freedom: the right to be wrong in any political season, out loud, without fear and in glorious Technicolor.”