Frontrunners are already forming in the Oscar race for Best Adapted Screenplay, according to early combined predictions at Gold Derby. While most films in contention have not yet been released, many were seen by film critics and industry insiders at the recent Toronto, Telluride and Venice Film Festivals. Hopping into the top 10 for the first time is “Toy Story 4” while “Downton Abbey” drops out. We’ve confirmed category placements with studios or campaigners, but — as awards season veterans know — such labels can change later.
Here are the current top 10 adapted screenplay picks according to racetrack odds based upon our users’ predictions as of Sept. 17:
1. “The Irishman” (opens Nov. 1): Oscar fave Steve Zaillian, who previously worked with director Martin Scorsese on 2002’s “Gangs of New York,” based his script on Charles Brandt‘s book, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” about Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a mob hitman with ties to labor leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).
Oscar history: Zaillian won an adapted screenplay Oscar for 1993’s “Schindler’s List.” that was shared with Jay Cocks and Kenneth Lonergan. He was also up for the same honor with his screenplays for 1990’s “Awakenings,” 2002’s “Gangs of New York,” shared with Jay Cocks and Kenneth Lonergan, and 2011’s “Moneyball,” shared with Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin.
2. “Little Women” (Opens Dec. 25): Greta Gerwig, who also directs, re-wrote a draft of the adapted script based on Louisa May Alcott’s femme-forward coming-of-age novel from 1868 that was initially written by Sarah Polley, who was under consideration to direct the eighth big-screen interpretation of the evergreen story of the four March sisters back in 2015.
Oscar history: Gerwig was nominated for her original screenplay for 2017’s “Lady Bird.” Polley competed for adapted screenplay for 2006’s “Away from Her,” which was based on a Alice Munro short story, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain.”
3. “Jojo Rabbit” (Opens Oct. 18): New Zealand multi-talent Taika Waititi takes on triple duty as actor, director and writer with this darkly humorous portal into Nazi Germany, based on the book “Caging Skies” by Christine Leunens. The basic plot: A misfit lad (Roman Griffin Davis) who attends a Hitler youth camp believes the fuhrer is his imaginary friend. He gets a shock after learning his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. The title took the coveted People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto film festival — often a bellwether for future Oscar glory.
4. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (opens Nov. 22): The script is based on an “Esquire” 1998 article written by Tom Junod, titled “Can You Say … Hero?” The film relates how the journalist’s encounter with the beloved children’s TV host and icon, Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), helped him see the world through different eyes. Matthew Rhys plays the writer, who is called Lloyd Vogel in the movie. The movie was written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, who were listed among “Variety’s” 10 screenwriters to watch in 2018.
5. “Joker” (opens Oct. 4): As most Oscarologists know, just one comic-book superhero film ever received a nomination for adapted screenplay — namely, the R-rated script for 2017’s “Logan,” the swansong for Hugh Jackman‘s X-Men character Wolverine. It was written by Scott Frank, director James Mangold and Michael Green. Could this origin story ode to Batman’s arch-nemesis (Joaquin Phoenix), whose screenplay was adapted by director Todd Phillips and Scott Silver, follow suit?
Oscar history: Silver was nominated previously for his original screenplay for 2010’s “The Fighter.” Phillips was up for adapted screenplay for his contributions to 2006’s “Borat.”
6. “The Laundromat” (opens Sept. 27): Scott Z. Burns, who has written three other films directed by Steven Soderbergh — 2009’s “The Informant!,” 2011’s “Contagion” and 2013’s “Side Effects.” His current script digs into the scandal known as the Panama Papers, referring to the offshore tax scheme that benefitted countless rich and powerful people. He is also the director and writer of the upcoming “The Report,” about the investigation into acts of torture by the CIA post-9/11. The screenplay is based on Jake Bernstein’s 2017 book, “Secrecy World.”
Oscar history: He co-produced the Oscar-winning 2006 climate-change documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”
7. “Just Mercy” (opens Dec. 25): This legal drama, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (“Short Term 12”) and co-written with Andrew Lanham, details the real-life miscarriage of justice when an innocent Alabama man, Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx), is imprisoned for murder despite considerable evidence to the contrary. Michael B. Jordan plays attorney Bryan Stevenson, who worked to free McMillan. He is also the author of the basis of the script, the much-lauded 2014 memoir of the case, “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.”
8. “Toy Story 4”: Woody, Buzz and the toy-box gang once again hit the road to save their new owner Bonnie’s new favorite plaything, Forky, who is made from a plastic spork. On the way, Woody reunites with his gal pal Bo Peep in an antique store. The screenplay was written by Stephany Folsom and Pixar regular Andrew Stanton.
Oscar history: Stanton has been nominated three times previously in the original screenplay category for 2003’s “Finding Nemo,” 2008’s “WALL-E,” and 1995’s original “Toy Story.” He also competed for his adapted script for 2010’s “Toy Story 3.”
9. “The Goldfinch”: This drama directed by Jonathan Crowley is based on Donna Tart’s 2014 Pulitzer-winning best-seller about a young boy (played as a young adult by Ansel Elgort) whose mother dies during a terrorist bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He grows up to be a drug addict and art forger after stealing the titular Dutch masterpiece during the explosion. The massive 716-page book was adapted by British writer Peter Straughan, whose most acclaimed script was for 2011’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” based on John le Carre’s espionage novel.
10.”Dark Waters” (Nov. 22): The drama focuses on corporate lawyer Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) who took on an environmental lawsuit against chemical company DuPont that would upend his career. The script, based on a “New York Times Magazine” article, is by Matthew Carnahan and Mario Correa.
Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.