It’s always extraordinary to get an Oscar nomination, but it’s especially unlikely for a first-time screenwriter to find himself or herself on Oscar’s shortlist for penning an adapted script. Historically, freshman screenwriters have more often landed in the Oscar race with originals. In the last decade the only first-time screenwriters to win the adapted screenplay kudo were either experienced writers, such as novelist John Irving (“The Cider House Rules”), or working with experienced writers: “Brokeback Mountain’s” Diana Ossana wrote with the well-established Larry McMurtry.
But this year three scripts in the adapted category — “District 9,” “In the Loop” and “Precious” — were written by newcomers.
Two of those three, though, have more than a little “original” in them. Both “District 9” and “In the Loop” were based on the same writers’ own original material.
“District 9’s” Neill Blomkamp (nominated with Terri Tatchell) wrote and helmed a 2005 short, “Alive in Joburg,” on the same topic.
Tatchell, who was not involved with “Joburg,” had moved to New Zealand to work on the now-defunct “Halo” with Blomkamp. She developed a close “working and personal relationship with both Neill” and would-be “Halo” exec producer Peter Jackson, whic allowed the writer — who had no previous credits — to attach herself to “District 9.”
“In the Loop,” by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche, is based on BBC4 political comedy “The Thick of It,” which they helped write.
“I had already developed this world that shows how politics work, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I take that world and expand it?’ ” writer-director Iannucci says.
The most traditional adaptation among the frosh belongs to “Precious” scribe Geoffrey Fletcher. But Fletcher, too, needed something original, a 23-minute short called “Magic Markers,” to get in the door. Helmer Lee Daniels became interested in Fletcher after seeing the short, but still needed convincing.
Only after seeing a writing sample and the first 15 pages of a proposed “Precious” script did Daniels decide to hire Fletcher.