×

Golden Globes Go Heavy on Adaptation Nominations in TV but Not Film

In a world of 500 scripted television series, one way creators are vying for the very limited attention of the audience — and to attract big-name talent — is by adapting already well-known works. Rather than having to start from the ground up when it comes to building the world, creating its characters and hooking viewers, adaptations come with a lot of the work already done. And with less risk, the rewards that are reaped automatically look that much bigger.

“It’s a massive draw because you have so much more information than you do when you just have a pilot script or a couple of episodes or even a full season. With the book, the format is so totally different [and] you have the ability to describe and develop and have so much character backstory, so it’s rife with things to help you bring these characters to life and tell the story really thoroughly,” says Jessica Biel, star and executive producer of USA network’s “The Sinner,” which earned two Golden Globe noms this year.

The Sinner” is based on the novel by Petra Hammesfahr that follows a young mother who commits a violent and seemingly unprovoked murder and then must unravel some long-buried truths about her past to fully understand why.

FX anthology drama “Fargo” was adapted from the feature film of the same name. The first season premiered in 2014 with some similarities to the big screen version but no direct connective tissue. The story it told, and the characters it introduced, were unique then — but the name recognition helped center it in setting, themes and tone. Subsequent seasons diversified farther, with the third — which is now nominated for its third consecutive Globe — set half a dozen years ago in three different towns in Minnesota instead of the titular Fargo, N.D.

Other Globe TV nominees such as HBO’s “Big Little Lies” and Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” stick much closer to their source material, though.

“The Handmaid’s Tale,” adapted from Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel of the same name, follows the same titular handmaid (Offred, played by Elisabeth Moss) in the streamer as in the book. Her internal struggle to adjust to the new patriarchal regime of Gilead remains prevalent, with her inner thoughts and emotions that were conveyed in the text by lengthy first-person prose translated into voice-over in the show.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” as a show does push the boundaries from the book a bit, though — most notably when it steps outside of Offred’s perspective to invite the audience into secrets and events she does not yet know. This is most notable in the deeper dive it does into her husband (O-T Fagbenle), who is shown to have joined the rebel alliance.

“We added things that weren’t there, we moved things around, we changed things. I think we got the audience used to it, and also for ourselves, taught us how to do new and different things within the sensibility that Margaret has created and brought to life in the book,” showrunner Bruce Miller says. “We’re comfortable going beyond the text of the book but remaining in Margaret’s world. We got that confidence the first season.”

Adapted from Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name, David E. Kelley’s version of “Big Little Lies,” tweaks some subplots — Jane (Shailene Woodley) knowing the truth about “Saxon” is arguably the biggest change — but keeps the core of the relationships and even the “whodunnit” of the murder mystery the same. (Admittedly, though, the motives behind the murder are slightly different from medium to medium.)

Despite the fact that the books can be considered giant spoilers for anyone coming into the shows cold, they are not deterrents from the storytelling. After all, it is not merely the “what” that is interesting — and award-worthy. The extra layers provided by nuanced performances, directing and shot composition — not to mention the addition of elements such as a musical score — all worked together to elevate the small screen’s offerings this year.

On the film side, though, adaptations proved to be not quite as popular with the HFPA. Filmmakers have been adapting published material for the big screen since the dawn of cinema, but this year, the awards race takes a back seat to original material.

Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” led the pack with seven nominations, while Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” and Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” took six each. While adaptations are useful in marketing a title to audiences, they are not a guarantee of awards tractions. Just look at “Call Me by Your Name,” which James Ivory adapted from Andre Aciman’s novel. It landed three nominations — two for acting, one for best picture, drama — but none for screenplay, even though Ivory has three previous Globes nominations for adaptations of similarly tony novels: “A Room With a View,” “Howards End” and “Remains of the Day.”

“Mudbound,” which Dee Rees directed from the screenplay she and Virgil Williams adapted from Hillary Jordan’s novel, may be the biggest adaptation snub in the group. Mary J. Blige reps the only two “Mudbound” noms — for supporting actress and song “Mighty River.”

Carole Horst contributed to this report.

More Film

  • Apollo 11

    Film News Roundup: 'Apollo 11' Re-Release Set for Moon Landing Anniversary

    In today’s film news roundup, Neon is re-releasing “Apollo 11”; “Sesame Street” gets moved; “Supersize Me 2” is set for Sept. 13; Will Ropp gets a “Silk Road” deal; and Apple makes a movie deal. RE-LAUNCH Neon will re-release Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary “Apollo 11” in theaters on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy' Moves to Awards Season Slot

    Michael B. Jordan’s upcoming legal drama “Just Mercy” has been shifted forward three weeks from Jan. 17 to Dec. 25 for an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release. “Just Mercy” is based on the case of Walter McMillan, an African-American death-row prisoner who was exonerated in 1993 after being convicted five years earlier for a 1986 murder in [...]

  • Harry Styles to Play Prince Eric

    Harry Styles in Talks to Play Prince Eric in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Harry Styles is going under the sea. The former One Direction frontman is in early negotiations to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • Stuber Movie

    Disney Left With a Slate of Film Flops After Fox Deal

    Is Disney having buyer’s remorse? The studio would be forgiven if it were having some regrets after absorbing 20th Century Fox, the company that once generated big box office with the likes of “Avatar,” “Life of Pi,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After “Dark Phoenix” bombed earlier this summer, Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista’s action comedy “Stuber” [...]

  • Taika Waititi Returning to Direct 'Thor

    Taika Waititi to Direct Marvel's 'Thor 4'

    Taika Waititi is returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The filmmaker will write and direct the sequel to his 2017 blockbuster “Thor: Ragnarok.” Waititi’s take on the fourth “Thor” movie puts Warner Bros.’ long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely. However, the studio hopes that “Akira” can get resume production with Waititi at the helm once [...]

  • Akira

    'Akira' Production Put on Hold by Warner Bros.

    Warner Bros. has put its long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely, sources tell Variety. Sources indicate that after a brief delay, the studio has pulled the plug on production indefinitely for the classic anime adaptation, which was set to begin later this fall. “Thor: Ragnarok” helmer Taika Waititi was on board to direct, and the [...]

  • Sir Elton John, David Furnish. Sir

    New Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala to be Held in the South of France

    Elton John and David Furnish are launching a new gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The two will host the inaugural A Midsummer Party benefit on July 24 in the south of France at the Johnny Pigozzi’s private estate, Villa Dorane, in Cap d’Antibes. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner, a live [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content