Welcome to the lucky number seventh installment of our Six Spot series, spotlighting all the people who came in 6th place at the Oscars.
This week, we’re looking at the Adapted Screenplay category. Often times the screenplay categories give us some of our most unique nominees that don’t show up in other categories. There’s an adventurous spirit to the branch’s choices that will spotlight some lesser known or more long shot films. Just these past two years, the Adapted Screenplay category has honored “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” the Coen’s anthology which had no precursor support, and “Logan,” the first superhero film in the category. This week, we’re looking at the 2006 Adapted Screenplay category, which had one of the most hair-raising nominations in the category’s history.
The Nominees Were:
- “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” – Written by Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Peter Baynham & Dan Mazer; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen & Peter Baynham & Anthony Hines & Todd Phillips
- “Children of Men” – Written by Alfonso Cuarón & Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby
- “The Departed – Written by William Monahan – WINNER
- “Little Children” – Written by Todd Field & Tom Perrotta
- “Notes on a Scandal” – Written by Patrick Marber
Yes, “Borat” got nominated for writing. Some forget how popular the film was. Sacha Baron Cohen’s film defied all laws of Oscar and taste to become a cultural touchstone late in the year. Many thought Cohen could land a Best Actor nomination; however, the Academy settled for writing. Best Picture winner “The Departed” always had a pretty secure hold on this win. It was the only Best Picture nominee in the category. The other three nominees each had multiple other nominations in other categories. This nomination was a confirmation of the Academy’s support for the films. Additionally, it shows signs that these are some of the films that may have shown up in Best Picture had they had additional slots.
The Six Spot Contenders Are:
- “The Devil Wears Prada” – Written by Aline Brosh McKenna (WGA Awards, USC Scripter)
- “The Illusionist” – Written by Neil Burger (USC Scripter, Indie Spirits)
- “The Last King of Scotland” – Written by Jeremy Brock and Peter Morgan (USC Scripter)
- “The Painted Veil” – Written by Ron Nyswaner (National Board of Review Winner, Indie Spirits)
- “Thank You For Smoking” – Written by Jason Reitman (WGA Awards, Indie Spirits Winner)
Craft Contenders Hoping For More
Every once in a while, a popular craft film can sneak into the writing categories. Even just this year, Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men” was able to parlay craft support to wind up in the Adapted Screenplay category. A few other films were hoping for similar craft support and saw some precursors come in for their screenplays. “The Painted Veil” was a legendary case of Oscar buzz that faded. The Naomi Watts/Edward Norton film was a remake of the 1934 Greta Garbo film and based on the novel from W. Somerset Maugham. Director John Curran’s film was noticed by few, but those who saw it noted its cinematography and costume design. Still, it managed a win in Adapted Screenplay from National Board of Review and was in the screenplay lineup for the Indie Spirit Awards. However, if it couldn’t get craft support, it wouldn’t make it in writing.
Neil Burger’s film “The Illusionist” went a little further and actually made it into the Oscars. It received a nomination for Best Cinematography alongside the other movie about magicians this year, Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige.” Unlike that film, “The Illusionist” had some traction and precursor support in the Adapted Screenplay category. It received nominations in these categories from the USC Scripter Awards and Indie Spirit Awards. While the film was popular, its similarity to “The Prestige” may have siphoned off some of the votes for this film.
Drafting Off Acting Nominations
Meryl Streep and Forest Whitaker were two of the big power players at the Oscars this year. Streep headlined “The Devil Wears Prada,” a massive blockbuster that propelled her to one of her best-received Oscar nominations. Meanwhile, Whitaker won the lead actor Oscar for his performance in “The Last King of Scotland” as Idi Amin. Both films were obviously on the radar of the Academy, so they definitely had seen the film prior to nominations. In terms of precursors, both films were nominated for Adapted Screenplay at the USC Scripter Awards. However, “The Devil Wears Prada” seems more likely as it showed up at the WGA Awards. The guilds are always the best predictors as they have voter overlap with the Academy.
People knew that Jason Reitman was going to be an interesting person to watch. The son of “Ghostbusters” director Ivan Reitman, Jason burst onto the scene with “Thank You For Smoking,” his debut feature which lit up Sundance that year. It went on to make a tidy sum at the box office while also getting strong reviews. Reitman won accolades for debut director but had even more traction in the Adapted Screenplay category. The screenplay won the Indie Spirit Award and was also nominated at the WGA Awards. The Oscars would catch up to Reitman only one year later with “Juno.” However, was there a chance that this could’ve been embraced, much like Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash?”