Ron Nyswaner to Receive WGA East’s Walter Bernstein Award at Writers Guild Awards

Ron Nyswaner will soon be traveling to New York to reunite with his Writers Guild of America East fellows for a grand occasion. The Oscar-nominated screenwriter, producer and showrunner has been selected to receive the Walter Bernstein Award at the 76th Writers Guild Awards at New York’s Edison Ballroom on April 14.

The honor — named after the late screenwriter who was blacklisted for his political views only to persevere and get his career back on track with such credits as Fail-Safe, Semi-Tough and Yanks — is presented to writers “who have demonstrated with creativity, grace and bravery a willingness to confront social injustice in the face of adversity,” per the organization.

More from The Hollywood Reporter

Nyswaner has been doing that for pretty much his entire career. A prime example is Jonathan Demme’s 1993 film Philadelphia. Penned by Nyswaner, the Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington-starrer was the first major Hollywood film to dramatize the real-world discrimination faced by those living with HIV and AIDS, and among the first to center on a gay lead character. It earned Nyswaner an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay and won Academy Awards for Tom Hanks as best actor and Bruce Springsteen for best original song.

He followed it up with Soldier’s Girl a decade later. Director Frank Pierson’s film for Showtime starred Troy Garity, Lee Pace and Andre Braugher. Inspired by a true story, it focused on the price a young solider paid for falling in love with a trans nightclub performer. Nyswaner also investigated social injustice in 2015’s Freeheld starring Julianne Moore and Elliot Page in the story of a New Jersey police lieutenant and her registered domestic partner as they battle to secure pension benefits amid a terminal cancer diagnosis, and 2022’s My Policeman starring Harry Styles, Emma Corin and David Dawson about how the turbulent times impacted a man’s relationship with his onetime lover.

Nyswaner’s other credits include John Curran’s The Painted Veil starring Naomi Watts, Edward Norton and Liev Schreiber, Susan Seidelman’s Smithereens starring Susan Berman, Brad Rijn and Richard Hell, Bud Yorkin’s Love Hurts starring Jeff Daniels, Judith Ivey and John Mahoney, Gillian Armstrong’s Mrs. Soffel starring Diane Keaton, Mel Gibson and Matthew Modine. On the small screen, he’s worked at a high-profile clip on such shows as Ray Donovan for creator Ann Biderman, the Emmy Award-winning Homeland for creators Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, and the recent docuseries Murder on Middle Beach.

But there’s another, more urgent credit worth noting. The timing of the Walter Bernstein Award comes on the heels of Nyswaner’s latest, the Showtime series Fellow Travelers starring Matt Bomer, Jonathan Bailey, Allison Williams, Jelani Alladin and Noah Ricketts. Nyswaner created, executive produced and served as showrunner on the critically acclaimed series based on the novel by Thomas Mallon. The story follows the volatile romance of two men, Bomer’s Hawkins Fuller and Bailey’s Tim Laughlin, who meet in 1950s Washington DC, just as Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn initiate the Lavender Scare, a dangerous war on “subversives and sexual deviants.”

(L-R) Jelani Alladin, Jonathan Bailey, Matt Bomer, Allison Williams, Ron Nyswaner, Noah J. Ricketts, and Robbie Rogers
Ron Nyswaner and his Fellow Travelers: Jelani Alladin, Jonathan Bailey, Matt Bomer, Allison Williams, Nyswaner, Noah J. Ricketts and his executive producer Robbie Rogers.

The series snagged nominations at this year’s Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards and is nominated at tonight’s GLAAD Media Awards. Nyswaner has been honored for his LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS activism before, earning shine from the Los Angeles LGBT Center with a Vanguard Award and the Ryan White Youth Service Award, among others.

“Ron is a trailblazer in the truest sense of the word,” praised Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, president of the Writers Guild of America East. “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.”

For his part, Nyswaner said he’s “incredibly honored” to be selected for the honor named after Bernstein, whom he described as “a brilliant writer who epitomized courage, integrity, and compassion. He expressed gratitude to his WGAE colleagues for offering it to him and humbly offered, “I hope I can live up to it.”

Best of The Hollywood Reporter