Horton Foote Award

Horton Foote Award Picture

Horton Foote Award for Special Achievement in Screenwriting

History of the Award

In February 2002, a new Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration award, the Special Achievement Award for Screenwriting, was established. The first award went to Horton Foote, Wharton, Texas, an Oscar- and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of screenplays, plays, and a nonfiction memoir. Following the announcement of Foote as the first winner of the award, it was immediately announced that henceforth the award would be named in his honor, the Horton Foote Award for Special Achievement in Screenwriting. Winners must be southerners who have excelled in writing screenplays. Called the "American Chekhov," Foote at age 16 left home to study acting in Dallas, Texas, then in California at the Pasadena Playhouse, and finally in New York. At first he wrote plays to provide himself with attractive parts, but he became fascinated with writing and gained acclaim with such plays as The Young Man from Atlanta, which won a Pulitzer Prize; The Trip to Bountiful, which won an Indie Award for Best Writer; The Chase; The Traveling Lady; On Valentine's Day; and Convicts. Foote's new play, The Carpetbagger's Children, which was performed to great acclaim in Houston, Minneapolis, and Hartford, Connecticut, played from March to June 2002 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center in New York. Again, critics were universal in their praise for Foote's work. Foote is also lauded for such screenplays as Storm Fear; To Kill a Mockingbird; which won an Oscar; Baby; The Rain Must Fall; Hurry Sundown; Tomorrow, an adaptation of William Faulkner's work; Tender Mercies, which won him a second Oscar; and a remake of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. He is also author of a recent memoir, Farewell: A Memoir of a Texas Childhood, which tells his own story and that of people who inspired his characters. The Horton Foote Award for Screenwriting is the brainchild of Gerald McRaney, an award-winning film and television actor of Mississippi and Sherman Oaks, California. Since the Natchez Literary Celebration in 2001 changed its name at McRaney's suggestion to Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration to reflect its increased focus on film, McRaney suggested a writing award for that medium. The Horton Foote Award is underwritten by the Mississippi Film Office, Division of Tourism, and Mississippi Development Authority.

Winners of the NLCC's Horton Foote Award

  • 2003: Billy Bob Thornton of Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Hollywood, California. With the film Sling Blade, Thornton made his mark as a star, screenwriter, and director. Other films that Thornton has written (with Tom Epperson) are One False Move and A Family Thing. Thornton's awards for screenplay writing include a Writers Guild of America Award and an Academy Award, both for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published for Sling Blade. In addition, Thornton has won numerous awards as a filmmaker, including the National Board of Review Special Achievement Award in Filmmaking for Sling Blade and the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature for Sling Blade. A noted actor, Thornton has won the Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor for Sling Blade, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor for A Simple Plan, Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor for A Simple Plan, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor for Primary Colors and A Simple Plan, Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor for A Simple Plan, and Chicago Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor for A Simple Plan. Other films in which Thornton has had key roles are U-Turn, One False Move, Pushing Tin, The Apostle, and Armageddon.
  • 2004: Gail Gilchriest of Los Angeles and East Texas. With the screenplay adaptation of Willie Morris' novel My Dog Skip and the teleplay adaptation of Eudora Welty's novella The Ponder Heart, Gail Gilchriest has won a devoted following. Her feature films, in addition to My Dog Skip, include Scarlett Fever (a.k.a. The Belle), a feature-length romantic comedy inspired by Gone With the Wind; High Hopes (a.k.a. Suddenly Yours), a rewrite of a feature-length romantic comedy; Crazy Love, a rewrite of a feature-length romantic comedy; and The Haunting of Hiram C. Hopgood, a screenplay adaptation of a British children's book by Eva Ibbotson. Gilchriest's television credits in addition to The Ponder Heart include And Baby Makes Three, one-third of a trilogy along with Beth Henley and Rodney Vaccaro, and Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!, a teleplay adaptation of a novel by Fannie Flagg, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Kate Forte. In addition, Gilchriest has written a Walt Disney Television Animation The Return of the Diamond Avenger and two books, Bubbas and Beaus and The Cowgirl Companion. She also wrote two documentary films, O Cowgirls! and an A&E Biography Tyrone Power: The Last Idol. She has worked in television advertising with FX True Stories, Lifetime Sports, and The Learning Channel. Her journalism experience includes reporting and column writing for The Houston Post and writing for such magazines as Elle, Sports Illustrated, Cosmopolitan, and Texas Monthly. Gilchriest holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and attended a creative writing program at Columbia University and a graduate screenwriting workshop at New York University. She has received the 2000 Christopher Award in New York for My Dog Skip; Quarterfinalist Award from the Chesterfield Writers' Film Project, Los Angeles; Quarterfinalist Award from the CineStory Screenwriter's Conservatory, Chicago; Quarterfinalist Award from the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship, Los Angeles; and Katie Award for Feature Writing from the Press Club of Dallas.
  • 2005: Callie Khouri of Los Angeles, born Carolyn Ann Khouri in Texas and lived in Texas, Kentucky, and Tennessee growing up. She attended Purdue University and later moved to Los Angeles to study at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. She is the writer of the screenplays Thelma & Louise, Something to Talk About, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and Mad Money. She also directed and produced Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Mad Money. For Thelma & Louise, she won the 1992 Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen; Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture; and Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. In addition, she was nominated for a BAFTA Film Award for Best Original Screenplay for Thelma & Louise.
  • 2006: Beth Henley born Elizabeth Becker Henley on May 8, 1952, in Jackson, Mississippi. Growing up, Henley always dreamed of becoming an actress. After graduating from high school, she attended Southern Methodist University where she wrote her first play, a one-act entitled Am I Blue, which was produced at SMU's Margo Jones Theatre in 1973. Henley's first professionally produced play, Crimes of the Heart, was the co-winner of the 1979 Great American Play Contest sponsored by the Actors Theatre of Louisville. A black comedy about three sisters, one of whom has just shot her husband, Crimes of the Heart then moved to New York where it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best American Play of 1981. Henley's other plays include The Wake of Jamey Foster, The Miss Firecracker Contest, The Debutante Ball, The Lucky Spot, Abundance, Control Freaks, Signature, L-Play, and Impossible Marriage. In addition to her stage plays, Henley has written a number of screenplays including the acclaimed film version of Crimes of the Heart, which was nominated for an Academy Award and featured Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Sissy Spacek, and Sam Shepard. Other screenplays by Henley include Miss Firecracker, starring Holly Hunter, Mary Steenburgen, and Tim Robbins, and Nobody's Fool, starring Rosanna Arquette and Eric Roberts. She also collaborated on True Stories with Steven Tobolowsky and David Byrne, the lead singer of the Talking Heads, who directed and starred in the film. In 2000, Henley won the Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award for her playwriting skills. By winning the Horton Foote Award in 2006, she becomes the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration's only multiple award winner.
  • 2007: Charles Burnett, native of Vicksburg, Mississippi, now living in Los Angeles. Bennett is the author of the screenplays Killer of Sheep; To Sleep with Anger; My Brother's Wedding; Guests of Hotel Astoria; The Glass Shield; When It Rains; Nightjohn; The Wedding; Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland; Selma, Lord, Selma; The Annihilation of Fish; Olivia's Story; Finding Buck McHenry; and Bless Their Little Hearts.
  • 2008: Alfred Fox Uhry, native of Atlanta and graduate of Brown University. Uhry worked first for the stage as a lyricist and librettist. His first major work was The Robber Bridegroom, a musical composed by Robert Waldman based on a novella by Eudora Welty, for which he received his first Tony Award nomination. He also co-wrote the screenplay for the 1988 film Mystic Pizza. Driving Miss Daisy is the first in what is known as his "Atlanta Trilogy" of plays, all set during the first half of the 20th century. The play earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It deals with the relationship between an elderly Jewish woman and her black chauffeur. He adapted it into the screenplay for a 1989 film starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, an adaptation which was awarded the Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay. The second of the trilogy, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, is set in 1939 during the premiere of the film Gone with the Wind and deals with a Jewish family during an important social event. It was commissioned for the Cultural Olympiad in Atlanta, which coincided with the 1996 Summer Olympics, and received the Tony Award for Best Play. The third was a 1998 musical called Parade about the 1913 lynching of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank. The book for the play earned him a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical.
  • 2009: Steven Soderbergh, is an American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, and actor from Atlanta, Georgia. Soderbergh's films often revolve around familiar concepts often used for big-budget Hollywood movies but with an avant-garde arthouse approach to them. They center on the themes of shifting personal identities, vengeance, sexuality, morality, and the human condition. His feature films retain distinctive cinematography as a result of his liberal use of avant-garde cinema coupled with unconventional film and camera formats. Many of Soderbergh's films are anchored by multi-dimensional storylines with plot twists, nonlinear storytelling, experimental sequencing, suspenseful soundscapes, and third-person vantage points.
  • 2010: Robert Harling, an American writer who often bases his plays and screenplays on his past personal experiences. Born in Alabama, he grew up in Natchitoches, Louisiana. He is a graduate of Northwestern State University of Louisiana in Natchitoches and attended the School of Law at Tulane University, New Orleans. Shortly before graduating from Tulane, he decided that acting was the better profession for him. He never took his bar exam. He lived afterward in New York, acting and working as a voice-over artist before penning the script for Steel Magnolias. He is best known for this play and film, which were inspired by his sister's death from kidney failure in 1985. The story deals with a young woman stricken with an illness that is determined to live life to the fullest. Harling, who wrote the play in 10 days, had never before written for publication. In 1989, he adapted the play into a popular film with a star-studded cast including Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah, and Sally Field. Harling played a small role in the film as a minister. The film was shot entirely on location in Natchitoches, where the events on which the story was based took place. The story behind Harling's second screenwriting effort, a comedy called Soapdish, came from his personal experience as an actor. The film starred Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Robert Downey Jr., Carrie Fisher, Whoopi Goldberg, and Teri Hatcher. He also wrote and directed the screenplay of novelist Larry McMurtry's The Evening Star, a film that starred Shirley MacLaine, Jack Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Bill Paxton, Scott Wolf, Miranda Richardson, and Marion Ross. Other films written by Harling include The Evening Star, which was the continuation of one of the most beloved and acclaimed movies of current time, Terms of Endearment. He also wrote The First Wives Club, starring Diane Keaton, Goldie Haw, and Bette Midler, and Laws of Attraction, starring Pierce Brosnan, Julianne Moore, Parker Posey, Michael Sheen, and Frances Fisher.
  • 2011: Robert Duvall, one of Hollywood's most distinguished, popular, and versatile actors, has a rare gift for totally immersing himself in his roles. Born in San Diego in 1931 and raised by an admiral, Duvall fought in Korea for two years after graduating from Principia College. Upon his Army discharge, he moved to New York to study acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where he won much acclaim for his portrayal of a longshoreman in A View from the Bridge. He later acted in stock and off-Broadway and had his on-screen debut as Gregory Peck's simpleminded neighbor Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird. Duvall received his first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role as the Corleone family's legal advisor Tom Hagen in The Godfather. In 1979, Duvall earned a second Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role as the Custer-like Kilgore in Apocalypse Now. The next year, he drew yet another Academy Award nomination, this time for Best Actor as the macho Marine pilot Bull Meechum in The Great Santini. He was honored with the Academy Award as Best Actor for the 1983 release Tender Mercies. He was nominated again for The Apostle(a film he wrote and directed), won a Golden Globe for Stalin, and received a Golden Globe nomination as well as his sixth Oscar nomination for A Civil Action. His impressive roster of additional feature film credits also includes The Chase, Countdown, The Detective, Bullitt, The Rain People, True Grit, M*A*S*H, THX 1138, The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, Joe Kidd, The Conversation, The Godfather Part II, The Eagle Has Landed, The Killer Elite, Network, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, True Confessions, The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper, The Natural, Let's Get Harry, Days of Thunder, Colors, Rambling Rose, Falling Down, Geronimo, Wrestling Earnest Hemingway, The Paper, The Scarlet Letter, Phenomenon, The Sixth Day, John Q, Deep Impact, Gone in 60 Seconds, Gods and Generals, Open Range, Secondhand Lions, and Kicking and Screaming. Duvall formed Butchers Run Films so he could become more actively involved in all aspects of film and television development and production. In June 2006, its miniseries, Broken Trail, aired on AMC to 10 million viewers. Broken Trail recently garnered 16 Emmy Award nominations as well as three Golden Globe nominations and a Directors Guild of America Award. The company's first co-production, A Family Thing, in which Duvall co-stars, earned a Humanitas Award. He executive produced the TNT Original The Man Who Captured Eichmann, in which Duvall portrayed the chillingly remorseless Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann. In the beginning of 2001, he went to Argentina to direct, write, produce, and star in Assassination Tango. He most recently starred in Curtis Hanson's Lucky You opposite Drew Barrymore and Eric Bana.
  • 2012: Scott Cooper, born in Abingdon, Virginia, in 1970, is an American screenwriter actor, director, and producer now living in Los Angeles. He is known for writing, directing, and producing the 2009 film Crazy Heart starring Jeff Bridges. The film, released by Fox Searchlight Pictures, has received a number of accolades, including awards presented by the Chicago Film Critic Association, Independent Spirit Awards, and Writers Guild of America. Jeff Bridges won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Bad Blake. Cooper received his first film credits as an actor in projects like Gods and Generals and the TV miniseries Broken Trail.
  • 2013: John Lee Hancock, a native of Longview, Texas, is a graduate of Baylor University and Baylor Law School in Waco, Texas. He worked in a Houston law firm for four years before deciding to pursue screenwriting in Los Angeles. Hancock has worked as a screenwriter, film director, and producer. His first project as screenwriter and director came in 1991 with Hard Time Romance (also known as Vaya Con Dios). He penned the film, A Perfect World, which was directed by Clint Eastwood. Hancock collaborated again with Eastwood on another successful film, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. His other screenwriting works include L.A. Doctors, The Rookie, The Alamo, The Blind Side, Snow White and the Huntsman, and The Goree Girls, produced this year by Jennifer Aniston. His directorial achievements include The Blind Side, The Alamo, and The Rookie.
  • 2014: Tate Taylor, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, he befriended Kathryn Stockett when both were just preschoolers. Both were largely raised by African-American domestics while their parents worked, the experience would largely inform their future efforts on The Help. Taylor and Stockett remained friends throughout their teenage years, eventually sharing an apartment in New York City, where she worked in magazine publishing while he pursued an acting career. Eventually Taylor headed to Los Angeles, where he studied with the improvisational group The Groundlings while working various jobs between auditions. He eventually landed minor parts in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion and Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes remake, but no roles of genuine substance. Undaunted, Taylor decided to take control of his own career and directed a comedic short, Chicken Party, which featured his then-roommate, actress Octavia Spencer, as well as Allison Janney and Melissa McCarthy. The short was well received on the festival circuit, winning several awards at state and national events and leading to the 2008 film version Pretty Ugly People, a comedy about a group of reunited college friends that also featured Spencer, Janney, and McCarthy. In 2009, Stockett completed her debut novel, The Help. Five years in the making, the book was rejected by over 60 agents before landing a publisher. Upon reading the book, Taylor and Stockett agreed that he should write and helm a feature version. When The Help became a literary sensation, their project caught the attention of DreamWorks chief, Steven Spielberg, who agreed to back the film on one condition: he sent veteran filmmaker Chris Columbus to not only serve as producer but on-set observer to make sure that Taylor was able to keep the project on budget and within its shooting schedule. The film version of The Help with Emma Stone, Viola Davis, and Spencer in the leads received both critical and audience praise for its performances and heartfelt story, debuting at No. 2 at the box office and eventually grossing nearly $200 million in worldwide ticket sales. The picture also weathered negative reaction for its depiction of race and class relations and its lightweight handling of the South's history of racism. For his efforts, Taylor, who was in the midst of receiving critical praise for his turn as a sympathetic bail bondsman in the neo-noir Winter's Bone, earned his best director and screenplay nominations from the Satellite Awards and Broadcast Film Critics Award.
  • 2015: Jeff Nichols, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas is a director and screenwriter based out of Austin, Texas. He wrote his first screenplay, Shotgun Stories, with actor Michael Shannon in mind to play the lead, and contacted the actor through a former teacher. The film was shot on a budget of only $250,000 and released in 2007. Nichols later moved on to larger independent productions, Take Shelter (2011), Mud (2012), and the sci-fi drama Midnight Special (2016). So far, all films directed by Nichols have feature actor Michael Shannon. Nichols was the winner of the 2014 Robert Alman Independent Spirit Award and the 2012 Cannes Film Festival Critics Week Grand Prize.