Backlot Awards Watch ‘ I Found My Voice While She Found Hers’ Liz Hannah and Josh Singer on penning Katharine Graham’s story By Rebecca Ford L iz Hannah wrote the screenplay for The Post with the hope that she’d get an agent. Instead, the 32-year-old screenwriter saw her spec script turned into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep as The Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. The timely ’70s-set drama has been nominated for the best picture Oscar, and Hannah and her co-writer, Josh Singer (who won the original screenplay Oscar in 2016 for Spotlight), will receive the Writers Guild of America West’s Paul Selvin Award at the Feb. 11 ceremony. Both writers spoke to THR about their process and the “high bar” set by working with Spielberg. What was it about Graham’s story that made you want to adapt it? HANNAH I only had vaguely heard about her, but I didn’t know anything about her life. And she lived one that I felt deserved to be out in the world. For me personally, it was about a woman finding her voice, finally ignoring all the naysayers — and even herself — telling her she couldn’t do it and standing on her own two feet. The irony is not lost on me that this is the script I got noticed on. I found my voice while she found hers. How did the two of you collaborate? SINGER Liz wrote an incredible spec script, but it wasn’t a shooting GOLD STAR SCRIBES A comic book icon, an LGBTQ activist and two veteran writers land WGA honors WGA West Awards Feb. 11 Beverly Hilton draft. With these fact-based dramas, you want to vet them — send them out to the world and get lots of notes, because you want to get it right. With Spotlight, I had terrible fear of not getting the journalism part right. Plus, the needs of a spec script and the needs of a Steven Spielberg film are slightly different. Because with a Steven Spielberg film, you’re going to get the highest degree of scrutiny you can possibly get. Fairly or unfairly, you get held to a pretty high bar. We had to make this as accurate as possible within the context of telling a good story. HANNAH I had never written a movie that had been produced ◄ DUSTIN LANCE BLACK The Valentine Davies Award will recognize the Milk writer’s work for the LGBTQ community. ↑ From left: Singer, Spielberg, Hannah, Tom Hanks and Streep on Jan. 4 at the Palm Springs Film Festival. before, let alone written a movie produced and directed by Steven Spielberg. The thing about Josh is that he’s not only an incredibly talented writer, he also has an enormous amount of experience in the journalism world and in the political world with Spotlight and The West Wing. We really tackled it more like a writers room; it was a very collaborative experience. Because of the quick timeline, he was used to working under the gun and under the pressure that the first choice is the best choice and the only choice. JAMES L. BROOKS The Mary Tyler Moore Show co-creator gets the Laurel Award for screenwriting. ALISON CROSS The Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award goes to the writer-producer (Roe vs. Wade, Murder in the First). What is your worst habit as a writer? HANNAH Procrastination. I think it’s every writer’s worst habit. But when you’re procrastinating, you’re still thinking about it. SINGER My wife, who is a novelist, makes fun of me for this all the time: I tend to get lost in the research. I go on really deep dives. Lawrence O’Donnell told me early on that the word “author” comes from authority. I am not a huge risk taker, so I really don’t like writing about something unless I feel like I’m quite knowledgeable about it. Is there one thing you must have in order to write? HANNAH Because I’m 90 years old in a 32-year-old’s body, I have a heating pad on the back of my chair. When you’re sitting there for hours at a time, I don’t care how comfortable that chair is, it can get pretty gnarly. So a heating pad kind of wakes me up. SINGER I need headphones and music. I tend to love classical, but it can be any kind. It really depends on what I’m working on. There’s a trick I learned from my wife: I’ll listen to the same thing over and over again. So good Bose headphones with music to drown out the world. And then I must have a baseball cap, because I need blinders. “There’s an immediate connection as a woman, knowing what it’s like to be in a room full of men and not have your voice heard,” says Hannah of Graham’s story (Streep, center). LEN WEIN The late comic book icon, co-creator of Wolverine, will be honored with the Animation Writing Award. SINGER: VIVIEN KILLILEA/GETTY IMAGES FOR PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL. POST: NIKO TAVERNISE/20TH CENTURY FOX. BLACK: DAVE BENETT/GETTY IMAGES. THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER 82 FEBRUARY 7, 2018
PROMOTION TODAY IN ENTERTAINMENT NEWSLETTER We are excited to announce the appointment of ASHLEY PARTINGTON to Vice President of the LA Talent Agency. WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO A GREAT 2018! Get an early brief of what matters in entertainment now. Each weekday, delivered to your inbox, executive editor Matthew Belloni and assignment editor Erik Hayden will highlight what’s news and what’s worth reading from TheHollywoodReporter and other outlets — basically, anything an entertainment insider or obsessive needs to know to start their day. Exclusives and dispatches from THR writers, editors, and critics will also be included. SIGN UP AT THR.com/newsletters FOR ADVERTISING INFORMATION CONTACT: LOS ANGELES | 323.525.2245 NEW YORK | 212.493.4049 James H. Rich, Jr., age 70, of Tarzana, CA, died peacefully from the complications of cancer on January 20, 2018 with his loving and devoted wife of almost 44 years, Abigail Crow Rich, by his side. Jim was born in Pittsburgh, PA, on December 24, 1947, to James H. Rich and the late Idamae Brody Rich. The date of his birth, he would tell everyone, was the result of his mother falling off a ladder while trying to put a star on the Christmas tree. He attended an all-boys prep school, Shadyside Academy, where, among other activities, he was a member of the honorary Sargon Society, and played on the varsity tennis and football teams. Summers he hung out at WAMO, his father’s radio station. After graduation in 1965, he went to Syracuse University to study Communications, where he lived in the football dorm and thought he was going to play until he was positioned in front of Larry Csonka and Floyd Little at a practice game and was flattened. Always resilient and practical, he looked around and realized that not only was it safer to go into the theater department, but there were real-live girls there. And so his show business career was born. He transferred to New York University’s Film School, where Martin Scorsese was his instructor, and where he created his award-winning student film, Ginkgo. After film school, he worked on Sesame Street shorts, commercials, and industrials in New York, and created his documentary Earth Day, starring Rod Serling and Pete Seeger. In the mid-1970s, he headed to Los Angeles to work for Bob Stivers Productions and began a career that spanned almost 50 years. As he advanced from young production manager to executive producer, he worked on hundreds of television shows, including Circus of the Stars, People’s Choice Awards, People’s Court, Superior Court, Vincent with Leonard Nimoy, John Denver and the Muppets, Kid Songs, Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Red Skelton’s Funny Faces, George Burns in Concert, Enchanted Musical Playhouse with the Osmonds, Straight to the Heart, A Talent for Murder with Sir Lawrence Olivier and Angela Lansbury and many, many others. ADVERTISEMENT James H. Rich 1947-2018 Jim was a member of the Producers Guild of America. He was the executive vice president of Cable and Syndication at Centerpoint Productions, where he worked for Tom Tannenbaum with production partners Guber- Peters, Blake Edwards, and Grasso-Jacobson. He won an ACE award in 1983 for Sweeney Todd, which won seven Emmys. In the early 2000s, he produced three two-hour specials to promote the opening of Universal’s theme park in Osaka. The specials featured top Japanese television stars and Universal stars Meryl Streep, Gene Hackman and Steven Spielberg. After retiring, he co-founded The Great Beer Company, brewers of the award-winning kölsch-style ale, Hollywood Blonde. He was a practicing Buddhist, worked on the campaign to elect Obama, and volunteered with an organization for troubled teens. Jim loved many things, not the least of which was walking the dogs at his beach house in Ventura, CA, watching Pittsburgh Steeler games, going to the symphony and the Hollywood Bowl with his wife, talking to his father, and bragging about his children and grandchildren. His life was marked by an electric spirit, an extraordinary ability to persevere, a goofy sense of humor, a quest for spiritual knowledge, and a generous soul. He is remembered by friends and admirers as someone who lifted them up when they needed it, and encouraged them to be their best and truest selves. In addition to his wife, Jim is survived by his father, James H. Rich, of Pittsburgh, PA; his son, Nicholas James Rich, and daughter-in-law, Cara Delizia Rich of Tarzana, CA; his daughter, Kit Rich, of Santa Monica, CA; three grandsons, Hunter Rich, Lucas Rich, and Crosby Rich; his sister, Kathryn Rich Sherman of Pittsburgh, PA; and numerous brothers/sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews and cousins. His memorial will be held in Tarzana, CA on March 3, 2018 from noon to 4:00. Family members will commit his ashes to the sea the following day. In lieu of flowers, please donate to his favorite charity, “No Kid Hungry,” (https://www.nokidhungry.org/) the campaign of the national anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength.