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Ron Nyswaner To Receive WGA East’s Walter Bernstein Award

Ron Nyswaner, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter behind films including Philadelphia and The Painted Veil and most recently the Matt Bomer-starring Showtime miniseries Fellow Travelers, is receiving this year’s Walter Bernstein Award from the Writers Guild of America East.

The honor will be bestowed April 14 at the WGA Awards‘ East Coast ceremony in New York, which takes place concurrently with the WGA’s West Coast ceremony in Los Angeles.

The Bernstein award goes to writers “who have demonstrated with creativity, grace and bravery a willingness to confront social injustice in the face of adversity.” Nyswaner becomes the second person to win the award, after Jelani Cobb won in 2017 for his Frontline documentary Policing the Police.

Nyswaner penned the original screenplay for Philadelphia, which was groundbreaking when the Jonathan Demme-directed film starring Tom Hanks debuted in 1993; it was the first major motion picture to focus on the discrimination suffered by people with AIDS, and among the first to feature a homosexual main character. The pic won Oscars for Hanks and for Bruce Springsteen’s song “Streets of Philadelphia” and was nominated for five Oscars overall including for Nyswaner’s original script.

His Fellow Travelers, which premiered in October, was adapted from Thomas Mallon’s book and centers on the volatile romance of two men who meet in 1950s Washington, DC amid Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn’s Lavender Scare purging “subversives and sexual deviants” from the ranks of the U.S. government. 

Nyswaner’s other credits include the films My Policeman, Freeheld, Smithereens, Mrs. Soffel and Soldier’s Girl as well as writing and producing on Ray Donovan and Homeland.

“Ron is a trailblazer in the truest sense of the word,” said WGAE president Lisa Takeuchi Cullen. “He placed LGBTQ+ characters firmly in the spotlight long before Hollywood considered those stories acceptable or commercial. He changed that perception by pulling in audiences with powerful plots, riveting worlds and good old-fashioned love stories, underscored by social commentary rooted in historical truth. By giving voice to trans stories, Ron elevated stories many were unable — or unwilling — to tell. We’re so proud to have him as a Writers Guild member, and to present him with this award.” 

Bernstein was a WGAE member with was put on the Blacklist in the 1950s and spent the next decade writing under various pseudonyms. His credits included Sidney Lumet’s Fail-Safe, The Front starring Woody Allen and Miss Evers’ Boys.

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