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Elaine May to Receive WGAW'S 2016 Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement


Acclaimed comedy screenwriter-director-actress Elaine May (Heaven Can Wait, Primary Colors) is set to receive the Writers Guild of America, West's 2016 Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement, honoring her extraordinary career and body of work, at the 2016 Writers Guild Awards L.A. ceremony to be held on Saturday, February 13.

"Elaine May defines the phrase 'smart and funny.' From the Compass Players to Nichols & May to A New Leaf and The Heartbreak Kid and Mikey and Nicky, she invented a strain of knowing, painful, ironic humor that quickly became central to what we now think of as comedy. She's received Oscar nominations and WGA nominations and Writers Guild Awards, all well-deserved; but it is time to recognize, plainly and simply, the debt that all of us owe to her brave, groundbreaking, fiercely intelligent, deeply human, relentlessly honest, scorchingly funny work," said WGAW President Howard A. Rodman.

A WGAW member since 1962, May received her first Writers Guild Award nomination (Screen: Adapted Comedy) for her 1971 debut film, A New Leaf (Based on Jack Ritchie's Short Story, "A Green Heart"), which she also directed and memorably co-starred as the sky heiress "Henrietta Lowell" opposite Walter Matthau.

Later that decade, May earned a Writers Guild Award (Screen: Adapted Comedy) and an Oscar nomination (Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium) for co-penning 1978's Warren Beatty-starring hit comedy Heaven Can Wait (Screenplay for Elaine May and Warren Beatty, Based Upon a Play by Harry Segall), which was remade years later as 2001's Down to Earth, starring Chris Rock.

She also received a Writers Guild Award nomination (Adapted Screenplay) for 1996's The Birdcage, the U.S. remake of the French farce La Cage Aux Folles, starring Robin Williams and Gene Hackman (Based Upon the Play "La Cage Aux Folles" by Jean Poiret and the Script Written by Francis Veber, Edouard Molinaro, Marcello Danon, and Jean Poiret).

Next, she won a BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as received 1999 Academy and Writers Guild Award Adapted Screenplay nominations, for her screenplay for the political satire Primary Colors (Based on the Novel by Anonymous).

Her other screenwriting credits include 1971's Such Good Friends (written under the pseudonym "Esther Dale," adaptation by David Shaber), 1976's Mikey and Nicky, which she also directed, and 1987's big-budget Warren Beatty/Dustin Hoffman buddy comedy Ishtar, which she directed. May also directed the 1972 romantic comedy The Heartbreak Kid, which garnered two Oscar nominations for the film's co-stars, Eddie Albert and Jeannie Berlin.

As an actress, May has made several scene-stealing appearances in numerous films during her career, including roles in Enter Laughing (1967), California Suite (1978), In the Spirit (1990), and co-starring opposite Woody Allen in Small Time Crooks (2000), which earned her a National Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actress.

In 1994, she received the American Comedy Awards' Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy. In 2000, she shared the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival's Career Tribute award with her frequent collaborator over the years, director Mike Nichols.

Most recently, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in 2013.

Awarded to a Writers Guild member who has advanced the literature of motion pictures and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the screenwriter, past recipients of the WGAW's Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement include screenwriters David Mamet, Lawrence Kasdan, Robert Benton, Barry Levinson, Steven Zaillian, Eric Roth, Tom Stoppard, Paul Mazursky, and Harold Ramis.

The Writers Guild Awards honor outstanding writing in film, television, new media, videogames, news, radio, promotional, and graphic animation categories. Competitive awards will be presented at both the Los Angeles ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza and the New York ceremony at the Edison Ballroom. The Los Angeles and New York ceremonies take place concurrently on February 13, 2016. For more information about the 2016 Writers Guild Awards, please visit or

The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) are labor unions representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news. The Guilds negotiate and administer contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of their members; conduct programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to writers; and present writers' views to various bodies of government. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, West, visit For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit

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