Frontrunners are already forming for the adapted screenplay race, according to early combined predictions at Gold Derby. While most films in contention have not yet been released, enough teaser trailers are out there, ranging from “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and “The Irishman” to “Little Women” and “Ford v Ferrari” to provide some sense of what at least feels like a worthy contender. We’ve confirmed category placements with studios or campaigners, but — as awards season veterans know — such labels can change later. And once the fall film fests commence, the standings will likely rapidly shift.
Here are the current top 10 adapted screenplay picks on the Gold Derby site, in order, as of Aug. 21:
1. “The Irishman”: 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.
4. “The Laundromat”: 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.”
5. “The Goldfinch” (Opens Sept. 13): 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.
6. “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.
7. “Just Mercy” (premieres at the Toronto film festival): 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. “Joker” (Opens Oct. 4): As most Oscarologists know, just one 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.”
9. Untitled Todd Haynes Project: Once called “Dry Run,” 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.
10. “Downton Abbey” (Opens Sept. 13): The movie picks up where the TV series left off in 2015, with the shows final episode taking place on New Year’s Eve in 1925. The screenplay picks up in the autumn of 1927 as King George V and Queen Mary pay a royal visit to the Earl and Countess of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern) and their clan.
Oscar history: Julian Fellowes, creator and writer of the series, earned an original screenplay Oscar for the 2001 murder mystery, Robert Altman‘s “Gosford Park.”
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.