It’s been quite a monumental week for this particular awards season. We’ve had monumental upset nominations at the SAG Awards and somewhat surprising disqualifications in the Original Score race. And now the Academy’s screenplay races have officially flipped.
As first reported by Pete Hammond at Deadline and confirmed by The Playlist, the Writer’s Branch has determined that the screenplays for “Moonlight” and “Loving” should qualify for Adapted Screenplay and not Original Screenplay. In theory, this would help both films, but let’s look at why.
“Moonlight” was written by Barry Jenkins but is based on a Tarell Alvin McCraney stage treatment. Producer Adele Romanski described this to me during a conversation a few months ago as a “sketch” of a treatment and that it was unfinished. A24 and the filmmakers believed that would qualify it for the Original category. The WGA thought so, but the Academy branch did not. A24 is smartly not appealing the ruling (we’ll get to that in a moment).
“Loving” is a much stranger situation. The screenplay was written by director Jeff Nichols, who has remarked since Cannes that Nancy Buirski‘s 2011 documentary “The Loving Story” inspired him to make the movie. And yet, Buirski has an executive-producer credit on the film which, in theory, would constitute significantly more involvement. We’ve heard Focus Features is appealing the ruling, but cannot confirm at this time.
The departure of both films from the Adapted Screenplay category allows at least one worthy nominee to make that field and gives a once-shallow Original category the frontrunner it deserves. Kenneth Lonergan‘s “Manchester By The Sea” and Taylor Sheridan‘s “Hell Or High Water” scripts are now battling for Best Original Screenplay, while opening the door for Noah Oppenheim (“Jackie“), Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”), and, shockingly, Damien Chazelle (“La La Land“) to make the cut.