Last year Graham Moore won Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars for turning the biography “Alan Turing: The Enigma” into “The Imitation Game.” That marked the third year running that a non-fiction book had been the source material for the winning screenplay following victories by “Argo” (2012) and “12 Years a Slave” (2013). This marks a new trend in the history of this award, which dates back to the first Oscars in 1928, as only 11 such books have been the basis for the winning scripts.
Rather, it is novels that have dominated as source material. Works of fiction have been the basis of 46 of the winners of this race over the years. The most recent of these was in 2011 when Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash won for their adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemming‘s novel “The Descendants.”
While adaptations of stage works have won 14 times, the last of these was in 1989 (“Driving Miss Daisy”). Short stories provided source material for seven winners, with “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005 being the most recent. And remakes of other films and teleplays account for four winners, the most recent of which was 2006’s “The Departed” (adapted from the film “Infernal Affairs”). One-off sources have included a newspaper column (“Mrs. Miniver”) and a short film (“Sling Blade”).
Below are brief overviews of these films, including studios, stateside release dates, festival appearances, Rotten Tomatoes (RT) and MetaCritic (MC) scores, box office, plot descriptions, cast lists, directing and screenwriting credits.
Eleven movies based on novels contend in this year’s race:
“Beasts of No Nation” – Netflix/Bleecker Street – Oct. 16
Venice (Competition), TIFF (Special Presentation)
Set in an unnamed West African country, Idris Elba plays a rebel who recruits a child soldier (Abraham Attah).
Directed by Cary Fukunaga who adapted Uzodinma Iweala’s novel of the same name.
“Brooklyn” – Fox Searchlight – Nov. 6
Sundance; TIFF (Special Presentation)
A young Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) begins life anew in 1950s Brooklyn.
Directed by John Crowley.
Nick Hornby adapted Colm Toibin’s 2009 novel of the same name.
“Carol” – The Weinstein Company – Nov. 20
Cannes (Rooney Mara tied for Best Actress)
A married woman (Cate Blanchett) falls in love with a store clerk (Rooney Mara). Co-stars Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson.
Directed by Todd Haynes, who adapted Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel “The Price of Salt.”
“The Danish Girl” – Focus Features – Nov. 27
Venice (Competition); TIFF (Special Presentation)
In the 1920s, artist Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) becomes one of the world’s first sex-change patients and transforms into Lili Elbe. Co-stars Alicia Vikander.
Directed by Tom Hooper.
Lucinda Coxon adapted David Ebershoff’s 2000 novel of the same name.
“Diary of a Teenage Girl” – Sony Pictures Classics – Aug. 7
RT: 94; MC: 85
This coming of age tale set in 1970s San Francisco chronicles Minnie Goetze’s (Bel Powley) affair with her mother Charlotte’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård).
Directed by Marielle Heller, who adapted Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel of the same name.
“Far From the Madding Crowd” – Fox Searchlight – May 1
RT: 85; MC: 71 $8.4 million (US); $10. 1 million (Rest of World)
In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong farm owner Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor.
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg.
David Nicholls adapted Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel of the same name.
“The Martian” – 20th Century Fox – Oct. 2
An astronaut (Matt Damon) stranded on Mars struggles to survive while awaiting rescue. Jessica Chastain and Chiwetel Ejiofor co-star.
Directed by Ridley Scott.
Drew Goddard adapted Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name.
“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” – Fox Searchlight – June 12
Sundance (Grand Prize and Audience Award)
RT: 84; MC: 71; $6.6 million (US)
Greg (Thomas Mann), who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with Earl (Roland Cyler II), befriends Rachel (Olivia Cooke) who has bee recently diagnosed with cancer. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
Jesse Andrews adapted his 2012 novel of the same name.
“Mr. Holmes” – Roadside Attractions – July 17
RT: 87; MC: 67; $11.5 million (US)
At age 93, Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) struggles to recall his last case and the circumstances that caused him to retire. Co-stars Laura Linney
Directed by Bill Condon.
Jeffrey Hatcher adapted Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel “A Slight Trick of the Mind.”
“The Revenant” – 20th Century Fox – Dec. 25
In 1823, fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is mauled by a bear in the Dakota Territory. After his fellow hunters (Tom Hardy, Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson) leave him to die, he sets out on a 200-mile trek to get revenge.
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Inarritu, along with Mark L. Smith, adapted Michael Punke’s 2003 novel of the same name that had been inspired by a true story.
“Room” – A24 – Oct. 16
TIFF (Special Presentation)
A young woman (Brie Larson) is kidnapped and bears a child before escaping from her captor.
Directed by Lenny Abrhamson; adapted by Emma Donoghue from her novel of the same name.
Nonfiction books remain a force to be reckoned with this year, with 11 being the basis of these contenders:
“Black Mass” – Warner Bros. – Sept. 18
Venice (Out of Competition); TIFF (Special Presentation)
Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp), whose brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) was a state senator, acted as an FBI informant for more than three decades. Features Sienna Miller, Joel Edgerton and Kevin Bacon.
Directed by Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”).
Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth adapted the 2001 book “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob” by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill.
“Concussion” – Columbia Pictures (Sony) – Dec. 25
A forensic pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), discovers chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of two NFL players and determines that this caused them to commit suicide. Features Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson.
Directed by Peter Landesman, who adapted Jeanne Marie Laskas’ 2009 GQ article “Game Brain.”
“The End of the Tour” – A24 – July 31
RT: 93; MC: 85
In 1996, Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) spent five days on the road with novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segal) who was promoting his novel “Infinite Jest.”
Directed by James Ponsoldt.
Donald Margulies adapted David Lipsky’s 2010 memoir “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself.”
“In the Heart of the Sea” – Warner Bros. – Dec. 11
In 1820, the whale ship Essex is wrecked by a bull sperm whale leaving the crew, led by Captain George Pollard, Jr. (Benjamin Walker), adrift at seas for 90 days. Among those struggling to survive are first officer Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), second officer Matthew Joy (Cillian Murphy), and cabin boy Thomas Nickerson (Tom Holland). This true story inspired Herman Melville to write “Moby Dick.”
Directed by Ron Howard.
Charles Leavitt adapted the non-fiction book of the same name by Nathaniel Philbrick which won the 2000 National Book Award.
“I Saw the Light” – Sony Pictures Classics – Nov. 27
Tom Hiddleston stars as the country crooner who died of an overdose of drugs and alcohol at age 29 with Elizabeth Olsen as Audrey Williams.
Directed by Marc Abraham , who adapted the 1994 book “Hank Williams: The Biography” by Colin Escott, George Merritt, and William (Bill) MacEwen.
“Legend” – Universal – Oct. 2
Tom Hardy plays identical twin gangsters Ronald and Reginald Kray, who terrorized London in the 1950s and 1960s.
Directed by Brian Helgeland, who adapted John Pearson’s 1973 biography “Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins.”
“Snowden” – Open Road Films – Dec. 25
The story of Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) , the former CIA employee who leaked classified documents from the National Security Agency to newspapers. Co-stars Shailene Woodley as his girlfriend Lindsay Mills.
Directed by Oliver Stone.
Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald adapted two books: “The Snowden Files” by Luke Harding and “Time of the Octopus” by Anatoly Kucherena
“Steve Jobs” – Universal – Oct. 9
Michael Fassbender plays the computer wiz, with Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen as his colleagues.
Directed by Danny Boyle.
Aaron Sorkin adapted Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of the same name.
“Trumbo” – Bleecker Street – Nov. 6
TIFF (Special Presentation) The story of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) with Diane Lane as his wife Cleo and Elle Fanning as his daughter.
Directed by Jay Roach.
John McNamara adapted Bruce Alexander Cook’s 1977 biography “Dalton Trumbo.”
“Truth” – Sony Pictures Classics – Oct. 16
The final days at CBS of newsman Dan Rather (Robert Redford) and “60 Minutes” producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) following the 2004 broadcast of an erroneous report about George W. Bush receiving preferential treatment to avoid being sent to Vietnam.
Directed by James Vanderbilt, who adapted Mapes’ 2005 memoir “Truth and Duty.”
“The Walk” – Tristar (Sony) – Sept. 30
NYFF (Opening Night)
Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) walks a high-wire between the Twin Towers in 1974. Co-stars Ben Kingsley. This was the subject of the 2008 Best Documentary Oscar winner “Man on Wire.”
Directed by Robert Zemeckis who, with Christopher Browne, adapted Petit’s autobiography “To Reach the Clouds.”
Three sequels and a remake are in the mix:
“Mad Max: Fury Road” – Warner Bros – May 15
RT: 98; MC: 89; $152 million (US); $216 million (Rest of World)
This fourth instalment in the franchise is a reboot with Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) joining forces with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to flee from cult leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his army.
Directed by George Miller.
Screenplay by Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris
“Secret in Their Eyes” – STX Entertainment – Nov. 20
An FBI agent (Julia Roberts) is devastated by the murder of her teenage daughter. Her partner (Chiwetel Ejiofor) works for 13 years to find the killer, with the help of the DA (Nicole Kidman). Directed by Billy Ray, who adapted the 2005 Oscar-winning Argentinian film of the same name.
“Spectre” – Columbia Pictures (Sony) – Nov. 6
Following directly after the events in “Skyfall,” James Bond (Daniel Craig) tangles with SPECTRE for the first time. Co-stars Christoph Waltz and Ralph Fiennes.
Directed by Sam Mendes.
Screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – Walt Disney Pictures – Dec. 18
This continuation of the saga created by George Lucas is set 30 years after “Return of the Jedi.” Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill reprise their roles from the original trilogy.
Directed by J.J. Abrams.
Screenplay by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan.
Two screenplays based on plays — one written at end of the 20th century, the other at the beginning of the 17th century — are vying for bids:
“The Lady in the Van” – Tristar (Sony) – TBD
TIFF (Special Presentation)
The true story of Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith) who lived in a battered car in the driveway of writer Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) for 15 years.
Directed by Nicholas Hytner.
Adapted by Bennett from his 1999 play of the same name.
“Macbeth” – The Weinstein Company – TBD (UK: Oct. 2)
Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard star as the would-be king and his manipulative wife. Directed by Justin Kurzel.
Jacob Koskoff, Todd Louiso, Michael Lesslie adapted Willam Shakespeare’s 1611 play of the same name.
Two documentaries provided source material:
“Freeheld” – Summit (Lionsgate) – Oct. 2
Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore), a terminally ill New Jersey police detective, enlists the help of gay activist Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell) to leave her pension to her partner Stacie Andree (Ellen Page).
Directed by Peter Sollett.
Ron Nyswaner adapted the 2007 Oscar-winning Documentary Short of the same name.
“Our Brand Is Crisis” – Warner Bros. – Oct. 30
Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton are political consultants hired by opposite sides in the 2002 Bolivian election.
Directed by David Gordon Green.
Peter Straughan (“Wolf Hall”) adapted the 2005 documentary of the same name.
And one adaptation of a short story is in the running:
“45 Years” – Sony Pictures Classics – TBD
Berlin; TIFF (Special Presentation)
A couple’s upcoming celebration of their 45th wedding anniversary is upset by news that the body of the husband’s first love has finally been found in the Swiss alps. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay star and both won acting awards at Berlin.
Directed by Andrew Haigh, who adapted David Constantine’s short story “In Another Country.”
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