Oscar rewarded reality in its screenwriting trophies, with nods for two gritty dramas that center on searing portrayals of topical issues.
Mark Boal took the original screenplay trophy for “The Hurt Locker” and Geoffrey Fletcher won the adapted category for “Precious,” based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire.
Boal, who wrote 17 drafts before completing the final “Hurt Locker” script, topped the scribes for “Inglourious Basterds,” “The Messenger,” “A Serious Man” and “Up.” Fletcher, the first black screenwriter to win an Oscar, topped scripts for “An Education,” “District 9,” “In the Loop” and “Up in the Air.”
The Oscar win represents the culmination of a six-year journey for Boal, who was embedded with bomb-defusing squads in Iraq when he began work on the project, which first emerged as a 2005 Playboy magazine article.
In his acceptance speech Sunday, the screenwriter-producer thanked director Kathryn Bigelow and dedicated his Oscar to “the 115,000 who are still in Iraq, the 120,000 in Afghanistan and the more than 30,000 wounded and 4,000 who have not made it home.” In earlier remarks, he also singled out Bigelow for backing “an unpopular story about an unpopular war that has now lasted twice as long as WWII with no end in sight.”
Boal has noted that during the pic’s filming in Jordan, there were no notes or interference from financers on “The Hurt Locker,” which cost under $20 million — allowing Bigelow to make a film aligned with Boal’s vision.
“It’s a movie no one wanted to make except for her,” Boal said last month upon receiving the WGA award.
Boal has contended that the characters in the film are composites created from dozens of real-life soldiers. But controversy arose recently over some of the elements portrayed in the story, with a lawsuit filed last week by Master Sgt. Jeffrey S. Sarver, who was with the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit in which Boal was embedded and who alleged that he’d been misrepresented. Summit has denied the allegations.
As for “Precious,” its Oscar represented the night’s first surprise, with most trackers having pegged “Up in the Air” as the frontrunner, particularly since “Up in the Air” had triumphed two weeks ago at the WGA awards.
“Precious” was the first produced screenplay for Fletcher, who wrote more than a dozen scripts before “Precious” director Lee Daniels asked him to adapt Sapphire’s novel. It was an effort that won Fletcher plaudits for laying out an unsparing and forceful story about an abused Harlem teenager.
In his brief acceptance speech, Fletcher teared up several times. He opened by saying, “I don’t know what to say. This is for everybody who works on a dream every day — precious boys and girls everywhere.”
Fletcher thanked the “Precious” team, his parents and brothers before concluding, “I’m sorry I’m doing a blank right now but I thank you everyone.”
Fletcher was only the third black screenwriter to be nominated in the adapted category, following Lonne Elder for “Sounder” in 1972 and Charles Fuller for “A Soldier’s Story.” Previous black nominees in the original screenplay category were Suzanne de Passe for “Lady Sings the Blues,” Spike Lee for “Do the Right thing” and John Singleton for “Boyz ‘N the Hood.”