Adapted screenplay contender

DISTRIB/RELEASE DATE: Fox Searchlight/Dec. 27

ADAPTED FROM: Novel “What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal,” by Zoe Heller

STORYLINE: A lonely older schoolteacher (Judi Dench) uses her discovery of an attractive young colleague’s (Cate Blanchett) secret affair to further a close relationship with her.

ABOUT THE SCRIPT: Producer Scott Rudin sent Heller’s book to Marber in 2003. Marber was drawn to the remarkable lead role for an older actress. Comments Marber, “The old are usually portrayed as a bit uncomprehending of the modern world, whereas Barbara is completely lucid about the depravities around her.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: The book reveals the secret from the start. Marber felt it would be more exciting for the film to build to the discovery, which he created in a striking sequence that is completely wordless. In addition, “The novel is told only from Barbara’s point of view. I was worried there wouldn’t be enough balance between the characters.”

BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: “I invented the whole sequence in the pub where Barbara confronts Sheba about the affair, having Sheba forced to explain it from her point of view. The camera then follows Sheba into her home, without Barbara, and that’s a big narrative shift.”

CHOICE LINES: Sheba, in the pub scene: “This is going to sound sick, but something in me felt entitled. I’ve been good all my adult life. A decent wife, a dutiful mother. This voice inside me was going, ‘Why shouldn’t you be bad? Why shouldn’t you transgress?’ “

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more