“Whiplash” was one of our frontrunners for Original Screenplay but the academy has classified it as an Adapted Screenplay. This shift comes despite it contending over in original at the Writers Guild, which will reveal the nominees for its awards on Wednesday.
The academy deems adapted scripts to be those based on material that has been previously published or produced. In the case of “Whiplash,” it is an expanded version of a short that writer/director Damien Chazelle made and screened at Sundance in 2012 to raise money for a feature-length film.
A similar situation happened back in 1996 when Billy Bob Thornton won the Adapted Screenplay Oscar for “Sling Blade,” which had been based, in part, on his 1993 short “Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade.” However, unlike “Whiplash,” “Sling Blade” had been slotted into the adapted side at the WGA, where it prevailed.
In 2009, “District 9” contended in the adapted category at the Oscars as it was based on a short film “Alive in Joburg” by writer/director Neill Blomkamp; he and co-scripter Terri Tatchell lost that race to Geoffrey Fletcher for his adapation of the novel “Precious.” Although “District 9” did not reap a WGA bid, it did vie for the USC Scripter Award, which is for adaptations, but lost to “Up in the Air.”
However, in a real headscratcher, Courtney Hunt was nominated at the Academy Awards in the original screenplay race for “Frozen River” in 2008 even though it was based wholly on her 2004 short film of the same name that had played at the New York Film Festival; (she lost the Oscar to Dustin Lance Black for “Milk”).
As with “Whiplash,” Hunt had made the short film, which also starred Melissa Leo, to attract interest in a full-length film.
Conversely, at the 2006 Oscars, Stephen Gaghan reaped an Original Screenplay bid for “Syriana” despite having based it, in part, on Robert Baer‘s non-fiction book “See No Evil.” Indeed, Gaghan had won the National Board of Review award for Adapted Screenplay and contended in that category at the WGA as well. He lost that race to “Brokeback Mountain” and the Oscar to “Crash.”
Will “Whiplash” reap a bid in the Adapted Screenplay race? Our current contenders for the top five slots are “Gone Girl (odds of 12/5 to win), “The Imitation Game” (27/10), “The Theory of Everything” (6/1), “Unbroken” (13/2) and “Inherent Vice” (14/1).
And be sure to update your Original Screenplay predix as well. With “Whiplash” out of the running there, what do you think will make it in to this competitive category?
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