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Six Circuit: Which 2013 Adapted Screenplay Missed Out on a Nomination?

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Welcome to the thirty-eighth entry in our Six Circuit series.

Our focus this week goes to the 2013 Best Adapted Screenplay race. This year’s Oscar nominations went almost exclusively to the same movies. Of the twenty acting nominees, only ten different movies were represented. Of those ten movies, eight of them were Best Picture nominees. Throughout the rest of the categories, the Oscars continued to show very little variation. Let’s look at the five films nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.


  • “Before Midnight” — Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
  • “Captain Phillips” — Screenplay by Billy Ray
  • “Philomena” — Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
  • “12 Years a Slave” — Screenplay by John Ridley (WINNER)
  • “The Wolf of Wall Street” — Screenplay by Terence Winter


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“12 Years a Slave” won an Oscar for Lupita Nyong’o (left), while Michael Fassbender (center) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (right) were nominated for Supporting Actor and Actor, respectively.

Four of these five films earned corresponding Best Picture nominations. In fact, this was one of three wins for “12 Years a Slave,” as it made its way to Best Picture. Though it seems like an easy win for the film, “12 Years a Slave” actually hadn’t won a whole lot of writing precursors. It wasn’t eligible for the WGA Awards and lost the BAFTA (to “Philomena”) and Golden Globe Award (to “Her”). The Critics Choice Awards were its only televised writing win. 

Each of the other Best Picture nominees had enough steam to easily make it into Adapted Screenplay. “Philomena” showed up at every major writing precursor it was eligible. Its nomination haul also includes the Golden Globes, where “Philomena” and “12 Years a Slave” were the only adapted screenplays. Much like “12 Years a Slave,” it also did not qualify for the WGA Awards.

Meanwhile, both “Captain Phillips” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” earned Adapted Screenplay nominations at the WGA Awards, Critics Choice Awards and BAFTA Awards. “Captain Phillips” even won the WGA Award, in light of “12 Years a Slave’s” absence. This means if any Best Picture nominee was vulnerable, it was likely “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The lone non-Best Picture nominee was “Before Midnight,” the third film in Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy. Co-written by stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, the trio already had an Adapted Screenplay nomination from “Before Sunset,” the second film in the franchise. Though the film wasn’t anywhere else on the ballot, the writing branch was obviously very fond of it.


    • “August: Osage County”
      • Precursors – WGA Awards, Critics Choice Awards
      • Oscar Nominations – Best Actress (Meryl Streep), Supporting Actress (Julia Roberts)
    • “Lone Survivor”
      • Precursors – WGA Awards
      • Oscar Nominations – Best Sound Editing, Sound Mixing
    • “The Spectacular Now”
      • Precursors – Independent Spirit Awards
      • Oscar Nominations – None


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“The Spectacular Now” follows Sutter (Miles Teller), a party-hard teen who falls in love with a sheltered girl-next door, Aimee (Shailene Woodley).

Many times, the Independent Spirit Awards can boost a smaller film’s profile and help it to Oscar nominations. The screenplay categories have been notoriously friendly to smaller movies with passionate followings. Past nominees include “Winter’s Bone,” “In the Loop,” “Away From Her,” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” to name a few. 

In fact, this year the Independent Spirit Awards did too good of a job. Of their five screenplay nominees, three earned Oscar nominations (“12 Years a Slave,” “Before Midnight” and “Blue Jasmine” in Original). Even the winner for First Screenplay received an Original Screenplay nomination (Bob Nelson for “Nebraska”). The lone adapted screenplay not to repeat at the Oscars was “The Spectacular Now,” written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. The pair had been in Oscar conversations a few years earlier for “(500) Days of Summer.” While the film was well-reviewed and starred many actors on the rise (Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley and Brie Larson), the Oscars rarely go for teen movies. Previously, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” received plenty of Oscar buzz in Adapted Screenplay, only to fall short at the final moment.


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“Lone Survivor” stars (left to right) Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch and Mark Wahlberg as a team of Navy SEALs caught in a mission gone wrong in Afghanistan.

With “12 Years a Slave” and “Philomena” ineligible, two other movies had to fill their vacancies. The two movies that did so couldn’t be more different. The most surprising was “Lone Survivor,” Peter Berg’s hit war movie from Christmas which was perceived as a sound contender and nothing more. The film’s “rah rah” spirit must have struck a chord with some voters. Yet, its inclusion merely demonstrates the weak number of Adapted Screenplays making a run for Oscar this year.

A year out, most prognosticators felt “August: Osage County” would be a shoo-in for this category. Writer Tracy Letts won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for writing the play. The fact that he was the one adapting the play into a film gave many high hopes for the project. Once casting was announced, with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts leading a star-studded ensemble, Oscar attention seemed inevitable. Unfortunately, the film disappointed both critics and audiences. Combined with a late release, it ultimately fizzled outside of the acting categories. WGA and Critics Choice Awards showed that the film still had some awards momentum. Unfortunately, the five nominees were so solidified, it would be hard for “August: Osage County” to hang on.



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Who do you think came in 6th place in the 2013 Best Adapted Screenplay race? Share with us in the comments below.


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Written by Christopher James

Christopher James has been an Oscar obsessive ever since watching his first ceremony at age 5 when "Titanic" won Best Picture. He is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with degrees in Screenwriting for Film and Television and Marketing. Christopher currently works in media strategy and planning at Liquid Advertising, based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can find Christopher running on the sunny beach, brunching at trendy restaurants or mostly just sitting in a dark room watching movies and TV in sweatpants. Follow me on Twitter @cwj92movieman


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