LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Hollywood screenwriters on Wednesday named nominees for 2008's best film scripts with a few surprises among the movies vying for honors ahead of the industry's highest awards -- the Oscars in February.
The Writers Guild of America nominated for best original screenplay "Milk," written by Dustin Lance Black and telling of the life of slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk, along with Robert Siegel's "The Wrestler," which looks at the life of a faded sports star.
Those writers will be joined by veteran Woody Allen with romantic comedy "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," brothers Joel and Ethan Coen for another comedy, "Burn After Reading," and Tom McCarthy with immigration tale "The Visitor."
In the best adapted screenplay category, the Writers Guild nominated Eric Roth for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," about a man who ages backward, John Patrick Shanley with sex abuse drama "Doubt" and Simon Beaufoy for "Slumdog Millionaire," which tells of a young Indian man who competes to win a fortune on a television game show.
Joining those film writers in the adapted screenplay group are brothers Jonathan and Christopher Nolan for their Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," and Peter Morgan with "Frost/Nixon," which recounts the interviews by British TV host David Frost of disgraced U.S. President Richard Nixon.
Nominees for awards from the Writers Guild often provide industry watchers with clues as to which films will compete for Oscars, the world's top movie honors, because many guild members also belong to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives out the Oscars.
Next on the list guild nominations will be the Directors Guild of America with its honors for film direction.
While several Writers Guild-nominated movies such as "Milk," "Slumdog" and "Benjamin Button" have enjoyed high profiles in early critical and other honors, "Burn After Reading," and "The Visitor" have stayed mostly out of the race.
Writers Guild nods could cause Academy voters to give those two a second look. Oscar nominations will be announced on January 22.
In addition to best original and adapted screenplay, the Writers Guild also named nominees for best documentary writing. Competing in that arena will be Stefan Forbes and Noland Walker for "Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story," Alex Gibney with "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson," Brett Morgen for "Chicago 10," Johnny O'Hara for "Fuel" and Ari Folman with "Waltz with Bashir."
The Writers Guild Awards will be given out on February 7 in Los Angeles. The Oscars are given out on February 22.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant and Cynthia Osterman)