Do Original Screenplays based on real events stand a better chance at an Oscar nomination?

Not all original screenplays are all that ‘original.’ While the writers may not have adapted them from existing works, many  ‘original screenplays’ are based on real events and real people rather than wholly made-up stories and characters. With that in mind, let’s take a look back at the Original Screenplay nominees of the last five ceremonies and see what that means for this year’s hopeful nominees:

Winner: “Get Out” – Original
“The Big Sick” – Original
“Lady Bird” – Original
“The Shape of Water” – Original
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – Original

Winner: “Manchester by the Sea” – Original
“Hell or High Water” – Original
“La La Land” – Original
“The Lobster” – Original
“20th Century Women” – Original

Winner: “Spotlight” – Real Events
“Bridge of Spies” – Real Events
“Ex Machina” – Original
“Inside Out” – Original
“Straight Outta Compton” – Real Events

Winner: “Birdman” – Original
“Boyhood” – Original
“Foxcatcher” – Real Events
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” – Original
“Nightcrawler” – Original

Winner: “Her” – Original
“American Hustle” – Real Events
“Blue Jasmine” – Original
“Dallas Buyers Club” – Real Events
“Nebraska” – Original

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Of the 25 past Original Screenplay nominees, 19 of them have been wholly original scripts with made-up characters and plots; four of these won their respective races. Six of the nominated scripts were inspired by real events and people and one prevailed: “Spotlight” written by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, which was based on the Boston Globe’s uncovering of the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese.

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The academy clearly prefers their original scripts to be just that – entirely original rather than inspired by real events/people. But what does that mean in regards to this year’s hopefuls? Drawing on our predictions, here’s a 10-strong list of potential nominees and which category they fall under:

The Favourite” (Real Events)
Roma” (Original)
Green Book” (Real Events)
Vice” (Real Events)
First Reformed” (Original)
“Eighth Grade” (Original)
“A Quiet Place” (Original)
“Sorry to Bother You” (Original)
“Isle of Dogs” (Original)
“Bohemian Rhapsody” (Real Events)

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Three out of our five predicted nominees are scripts inspired by real events: “The Favourite,” written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, is a telling of the tale of Queen Anne and Lady Sarah. “Green Book” tells the story of Don Shirley and Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga, and was written by Vallelonga’s son Nick, Brian Hayes Currie, and director Peter FarrellyAnd “Vice,” written by director Adam McKay, is a wild riff on politico Dick Cheney.

Just as recent Oscar history does not bode well for any of these three, it is a boost for Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” which is entirely original although influenced by his upbringing and Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed.” 

Beyond the top five,“Bohemian Rhapsody,” written by Anthony McCarten (Oscar-nominated for “The Theory of Everything”) and Peter Morgan (Oscar-nominated for “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon”) suffers a setback as it is the story of Queen and Freddie Mercury. Conversely, John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” could sneak in as it is an all original story.

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