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Vic pays tribute to award-winning scriptwriter

14 April 2005

Victoria pays tribute to award-winning scriptwriter

Academy Award-winning Wellington scriptwriter Fran Walsh is to be awarded an honorary Doctor of Literature from Victoria University at its May graduation ceremonies.

Ms Walsh, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria in 1981, began her career as a fledgling scriptwriter working in television, including writing episodes of Worzel Gummidge, Down Under and Shark in the Park. She then went on to collaborate with Peter Jackson in such full-length films as Meet the Feebles (1989), Braindead (1992), Heavenly Creatures (1994), and The Frighteners (1996).

Her work on Heavenly Creatures, and the Oscar nomination she received for writing the screenplay, saw her admitted as a Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Membership of the Academy is by invitation of the Board of Governors and is limited to those who have achieved distinction in the arts and sciences of motion pictures.

As one of the producers of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Ms Walsh was nominated in 2001 for an Academy Award for Best Picture and for Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published) as a scriptwriter for the same film. The script for the film also earned her a nomination for Original Screenplay from the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) while the film won the Best Picture award.

In 2002, she was again nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category as a producer of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

At the 76th Academy Awards ceremony held in Los Angeles in 2004, Ms Walsh was awarded three Oscars: as a producer of the Best Film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; for Writing (Best Adapted Screenplay); and for Music (Original Song) for the music and lyrics of the song, Into the West. The film also saw her receive BAFTA awards for Best Film and Best Adapted Screenplay in 2004.

Ms Walsh has been a loyal alumna of Victoria University, actively supporting the Scriptwriting programme at the University’s International Institute of Modern Letters by making available the scripts of motion pictures nominated for Academy Awards, an invaluable resource for Victoria students. She has also supported the launch of the scriptwriting major in the Master of Arts in Creative Writing at the University.

Through Wingnut Films Ltd, which she co-owns with partner and fellow Academy Award winner Peter Jackson, she has been strong supporter of Wellington’s creative industries. She is a past-member of the Board of the New Zealand Film Commission and Patron of the New Zealand Scriptwriters Foundation Te Tuapapa Kaituhi o Aoteaora, a charitable trust established in 2001 by the New Zealand Writers Guild.

Ms Walsh has received several awards for her work, including being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to film in 2002, and an International Achievement Award in 2004 from Women in Film and Television International.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh paid tribute to Ms Walsh’s achievements.

“Successful scriptwriting not only demands a high level of imagination and ingenuity, but also intelligence, rigour, skill, experience and craft. Fran Walsh has demonstrated all of these attributes in great abundance. She is recognised as one of the sharpest and most gifted script analysts, both in New Zealand and around the world, and provides inspiration to a new generation of scriptwriters.

“As a graduate of Victoria who has achieved at the highest level in her field, Ms Walsh epitomises the attributes of a Victoria graduate: she is able to work collaboratively and creatively to achieve outstanding results in a range of genres.

“While The Lord of the Rings trilogy was easily one of the biggest projects in movie history, winning 17 Oscars from 30 nominations, her current project is possibly bigger in a different sense – remaking King Kong for a modern audience is a major undertaking and, given her track record, one for which she will no doubt earn further industry accolades.”


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