You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Adapted Screenplays Probe Human Side of Stories

Emotions run high in weighty, character-driven feature films.


Writer: Eric Heisserer
The challenge faced by Heisserer in penning “Arrival” was to adapt Ted Chiang’s award-winning 1998 novella “Story of Your Life,” which touches on issues of determinism, linguistic relativity, and Fermat’s principle of least time — all worthy elements for science fiction literature, but perhaps a bit too difficult to translate into a major motion picture. The solution: build the speculative elements around an emotional core — linguist Amy Adams’ grief over the loss of her daughter — and use that yearning for connection as a hub from which radiates the more overarching and altogether timely themes of communication, tolerance, and compassion toward entities whose viewpoints appear to clash with ours.

Writer: August Wilson
“Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in.” So says Stephen McKinley Henderson’s character Bono. That helps to summarize the late Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1983 drama, brought to vivid life by actor-director Denzel Washington. There are a lot of fireworks on-screen, as expected with a cast that includes Oscar nominee Viola Davis and Wilson veteran Henderson. But it’s the complexity of Wilson’s script — penned before his death in 2005 — that provides the fuel for their performances. Wilson’s dialogue retains its crackle and searing insight as it plumbs the raw, often unspoken places in the everyday struggles of the human spirit — dashed dreams, forced humility, and, ultimately, our need for redemption and acceptance.

Hidden Figures
Writers: Theodore Melfi, Allison Schroeder
In the 1960s three female, African-American mathematicians performed the calculations needed to launch the first successful space missions at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. It’s a story that was relatively unknown and now forms the basis for “Hidden Figures,” which has garnered three Oscar noms, including one for adapted screenplay. Co-penned by Melfi, who also directed the film, and rookie scribe Schroeder, who interned at NASA in high school and whose grandparents worked there as well, the uplifting and inspiring drama was adapted from the book, published in 2016, by Margot Lee Shetterly. A rousing crowd-pleaser espousing the importance of female empowerment, “Hidden Figures” has grossed more than $100 million at the box office, thus far. While not a frontrunner in the screenwriter category, that Schroeder’s first Hollywood gig has garnered her (and Melfi) an Oscar nomination signals a bright career ahead.

Writer: Luke Davies
For Australian poet and novelist Luke Davies, the greatest hurdle in adapting Saroo Brierley’s astonishing memoir, “A Long Way Home,” wasn’t the story itself, which detailed the author’s separation from his mother in India, adoption by an Australian couple, and the search that led to Brierley’s reunion with his parent a quarter century later. Those elements were powerful enough to translate their emotional resonance into a visual presentation. But it was the search for Brierley’s mother, conducted largely online, that posed the concern of making a computer screen the focus of attention on a movie screen. Davies avoided this sterile image — an inert staple of crime and espionage pictures — by making the search a component of the quest and not the solution. The search provides a means for Brierley (played by Oscar nominee Dev Patel) to express his desire to find a crucial missing component in his life. This modest shift in focus gives “Lion” a layer of resonance that helps to fuel the deep connection that audiences are experiencing with the film.

Writers: Barry Jenkins (screenplay) and Tarell Alvin McCraney (story)
What makes a script truly original? To the WGA, “Moonlight” — based on a never-produced play by co-nominee Tarell Alvin McCraney (“In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue”) — was absolutely an original. To the Academy, it’s adapted. Regardless, “Moonlight,” a coming-of-age story that focuses on an African- American boy (then man) as he’s both shamed by and explores his homosexuality — is easily the most original script of the year. Spare in dialogue, strong on atmosphere and silent portent, we observe how Chiron’s still waters run deep as we follow him through three key stages in his life. Competition in the category is fierce, but Jenkins’ treatment stands out. The writer-director’s quiet confidence helps craft an intimate yet unflinching story.

More Film

  • Mediapro Unveils The Mediapro Studio, With

    Spain's Mediapro Unveils New Studio, With 34 Series in Production (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Mediapro Group – the Barcelona-based multinational co-founded by Jaume Roures – is unveiling The Mediapro Studio, with 34 scripted series already in production worldwide. The new production company will be based in Fuencarral, northern Madrid, just a few miles from Netflix’s soon-to-open European production hub. It will be overseen by Javier Méndez as chief [...]

  • Fox Searchlight logo

    Film News Roundup: Fox Searchlight Launches Searchlight Shorts

    In today’s film news roundup, Fox Searchlight starts a shorts channel, Uma Thurman signs with ICM and Miramax signs animation exec Michael Lachance. SEARCHLIGHT SHORTS Fox Searchlight Pictures’ chairmen Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula have announced the launch of “Searchlight Shorts” as a collection of short films. The shorts are available on Fox Searchlight’s YouTube [...]

  • ImMature - cr: MX Player

    Indian Streamers Ramp up Original Productions

    Ever since global streaming giants Amazon Prime Video and Netflix entered the Indian OTT space in 2016, the conversation around original series has mostly revolved around them, thanks in part to market leader 21st Century Fox’s Hotstar’s circumspect attitude at the time about producing content. Netflix had great success with “Sacred Games,” while Amazon rode [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Hollywood Agents, Writers Guild Make Little Progress in Talks

    Leaders of Hollywood agencies and the Writers Guild of America made little progress in Tuesday meeting to negotiate proposed rule revisions to how agents represent writers. The WGA said after the meeting — the fifth since Feb. 5 — that talks would resume later this week but did not give a specific day. “The Agencies [...]

  • Village Rockstars

    Female Filmmakers Are a Growing Voice in India

    The Indian film industry has historically been a male-dominated one, but the winds of change are blowing across the country, albeit slowly. Better-served than the rest of the country is the Mumbai-based Hindi-language industry, where there are several active female filmmakers including Zoya Akhtar (“Gully Boy”), Reema Kagti (“Gold”), Leena Yadav (“Rajma Chawal”), Gauri Shinde [...]

  • Florence Pugh

    Scarlett Johansson's 'Black Widow' Movie Adds Florence Pugh

    “Black Widow’s” web may soon be growing. Sources tell Variety that Florence Pugh is in talks to join Scarlett Johansson’s standalone superhero film. Pugh has been on the hot list for this second lead role since last fall, but Marvel wanted to open up the field to other actresses at the beginning of the year. [...]

  • Mira Lesmana Sets up Indonesia Remake

    Mira Lesmana Sets Up Indonesian Remake of CJ's 'Sunny'

    Indonesia’s Miles Film and Korea’s CJ Entertainment are to co-produce an Indonesian remake of Korean hit “Sunny.” The film is a female-driven dramedy about a group of adult friends who reunite 20 years after high school. Directed by Kang Hyoung-chul, “Sunny” was one of the highest-grossing movies in Korea when it was released in 2011. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content