'Precious' moments

Waterford native Geoffrey Fletcher will be considered at tonight's Academy Awards ceremony for best adapted screenplay for "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire.'' Fletcher's screenplay won an Independent Spirit Award on Friday. Story, D3.
Waterford native Geoffrey Fletcher will be considered at tonight's Academy Awards ceremony for best adapted screenplay for "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire.'' Fletcher's screenplay won an Independent Spirit Award on Friday. Story, D3. Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

What a few weeks it's been for Geoffrey Fletcher.

The Waterford native has been nominated for pretty much every movie award in sight for his adapted screenplay for "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," so he's been doing his fair share of shuttling among awards ceremonies.

We're talking the Independent Spirit Awards two days ago, a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) two weeks ago.

He won an NAACP Image Award for outstanding writing for a motion picture last weekend.

And, of course, he's got a little something called the Oscars tonight.

What else? Well, he sat next to Meryl Streep at the Oscar nominee luncheon.

And he has just been hired to write a script about the 1971 Attica prison riots to be directed by Doug Liman, who helmed "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and "The Bourne Identity."

All this has happened because of "Precious," which is only Fletcher's first feature film. The 39-year-old has been working on his own for years, writing and directing his own short films, persevering and hoping that some day, some how, he'd break through.

What's amazing is that, not only did he break through, but the result, "Precious," has drawn universal acclaim and myriad award nominations.

Tonight is the culmination of all that: the Oscars.

Fletcher says, "It's still sinking in. When someone says the words 'Oscar nominated,' followed by my name, I still find it a jolt."

He says people from southeastern Connecticut have been greatly supportive.

"Whatever happens (at tonight's Oscars ceremony), I hope they enjoy it, and I'm proud to represent our area there. Whatever happens, I hope they realize it's an honor just to be nominated," he says and laughs.

He knows what the odds are. The various awards at other ceremonies for adapted screenplay have tended to go to Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for "Up in the Air."

And yet nothing is certain. Asked whether he will write an acceptance speech just in case, Fletcher says, "It was recommended. I'm hesitant to do it, but it's probably wise to do it. I'm told that it's better to have one and not need it than need one and not have it."

A couple of weeks before the actual ceremony, the Oscars always hold a luncheon for all the nominees, and Fletcher attended, bringing his mother, Bettye, along. (She'll also go with him to tonight's ceremony.)

At the nominee luncheon, he says, "You're seated with no one from your film and no one who does what you do. So, at my table, there was a young man nominated for a short film, a woman nominated for make-up for 'Star Trek,' and I was seated next to Meryl Streep."

He, naturally, has admired Streep's work for years, and she said kind things to him about "Precious."

Fletcher told her, too, that he had met two of her daughters, both actresses, over the last year. And he asked how she navigates awards season.

"She was basically saying that it can be a lot, but it's naturally a good place to be, and keeping everything in perspective is the best way to approach it," he says. "A number of people - musicians, actors, editors, academy governers - would come up to her ... She was gracious to each and every one of them."

Beyond rubbing shoulders with icons, nominees also all got a certificate saying they are a nominee - and a sweatshirt, with a subtle nominee notation on the sleeve and a symbol on the front.

Whatever happens tonight, Fletcher has already won an award, and quite a prestigious one at that. The night of earning an NAACP Image Award, he says, "was wonderful. It means a lot when an historic and prestigious organization embraces your work. I was so happy for everyone involved. It has been a long journey for all of us."

Of course, the success of "Precious" has brought Fletcher not only accolades but also career opportunities. He has been meeting with directors and actors in L.A.

"There are a lot of inquiries about projects, and some are from directors whose work I admire quite a bit or from people in the film industry I have admired from afar for a long time, so it is very, very different from what it was a little over a year ago," Fletcher says.

"Having some sort of choice is a rare position to be in, but it's one that requires a lot of thought," he says, adding that you have to make sure it's something you care enough about to devote enomorous amounts of time and energy to.

Which brings us to the Attica project.

"I'm thrilled about that," Fletcher says. "It's a big story. It's one that took place at a crossroad in our history, and it's one whose issues still resonate today."

An interesting sidenote is that director Liman has a personal connection to the story: his father was chief counsel to the New York State Special Commission on Attica Prison.

Over the past few weeks, Fletcher has spoken as part of a screenwriters' panel, too, in a session moderated by Judd Apatow and alongside the writers of the likes of "Avatar," "The Hurt Locker," "The Hangover," and "(500) Days of Summer."

All the events have given Fletcher a chance to catch up with old acquaintances and make new ones. After the Golden Globes, Fletcher got to see Matt Damon, who was nominated for best supporting actor for "Invictus." Fletcher and Damon knew each other when they were students at Harvard; in fact, they were in the same freshmen dorm.

And Fletcher has become pals with folks like Sheldon Turner, the co-writer of "Up in the Air."

"In addition to all the wonderful things that are happening, I didn't realize I would also make new friends," he says.

The shared experiences and passions have certainly helped create bonds.

"When we go to some of these same events together, friendships do form, and it's a really wonderful thing - one of the most wonderful elements about this entire experience," he says.

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