While most kids went to summer camp to learn archery, “The Imitation Game” screenwriter Graham Moore went to learn computer science, and it was there that he first heard the story of mathematician Alan Turing. “I sort of fell in with a bunch of similarly awkward, techy teenagers,” he says in our exclusive video interview (watch it below), “and among awkward, techy teenagers, Alan Turing was sort of this campfire legend, this subject of endless fascination. It almost felt like this secret history of World War II, this secret history of computer science. Here was this guy who sort of secretly invented the computer, secretly won the war, but no one knew because he was gay, because he was persecuted by the government for it.”
He continues, “Over the years, I’d sort of always wanted to write about Alan Turing: it seemed that if anybody’s life deserved a sort of proper, cinematic treatment, it was Turing’s.” Yet upon arriving in Hollywood six years ago, Moore found few studios wanted to invest in the story of, “a gay, English mathematician in the 1940s, and at the end he kills himself. Those aren’t necessarily the buzzwords that Hollywood executives get excited about hearing.”
It was almost by fate that Moore encountered producer Nora Grossman at a party she was throwing at her house. “I think she thought I was a different Graham or something: I have no idea how she invited me.” It was there he learned that Grossman, who was also trying to get her foot in Hollywood’s door, had optioned Andrew Hodges‘s book “Alan Turing: The Enigma” for her first film, and as Moore puts it, “there began weeks of me stalking and harassing her and her producing partner Ido Ostrowsky into letting me come on and write it on spec.”
Moore worked on the script for a year unpaid, never knowing whether or not the film would get produced. It was during this uncertain period that he came up with what he refers to as, “our tripartite structure,” in which the story would jump back-and-forth in chronology between Turing’s life as a young man in the 1920s, his great work in the 1940s, and his persecution in the 1950s.
Moore elaborates, “I knew that I did not want this to be a traditional birth-to-death biopic. We always knew we wanted to make a movie from Alan’s perspective: it was going to be his movie. We wanted him to be telling you this story; we wanted to see the world through Alan’s eyes. The whole point of the movie was to open up Alan’s experience to an audience. So it was like, how would Alan Turing construct the Alan Turing movie? So I became obsessed with this idea that Turing was fascinated by codes, by puzzles, by games. So what if the whole movie was a puzzle, a game?”
Moore currently sits in first place in our Oscar experts’ predictions for Best Adapted Screenplay race with 4/11 odds, and his win at last week’s USC Scripter Awards helps solidify his frontrunner status. Check out our full interview below for more on how he penned “The Imitation Game.”