John Ridley’s adaptation of the trials and tribulations of former slave Solomon Northup, Peter Morgan’s account of James Hunt and Niki Lauda’s Formula One racing rivalry and Ryan Coogler’s testament to the tragically short life of Bay Area father Oscar Grant are just a handful of screenplays that won’t be eligible for nominations from the Writers Guild of America (WGA) this year, HitFix has learned.
Each of those films – “12 Years a Slave,” “Rush,” “Fruitvale Station” – and more are not listed on an official guild ballot obtained by In Contention this morning. Others not on the list of 41 Best Adapted Screenplay contenders along with Ridley include Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope’s Venice Film Festival award-winning “Philomena” and William Nicholson’s biopic “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” On the original screenplay side, where there are 54 contenders listed, Lake Bell’s “In a World…” and Edgar Wright’s “The World’s End” will be joining Morgan and Coogler on the sidelines.
But all of these scripts, of course, are eligible for Oscar consideration and many of them have fair shots at being recognized by the Academy in January.
Every awards season, a number of contenders that might be formidable presences in the Oscar races for Best Adapted and Original Screenplay – or at the very least have ballot support from the Academy’s writers branch – end up left out of the WGA conversation due to tighter qualifying rules. Writers who are not members of the guild, films made with production companies that are not WGA signatories and productions otherwise made outside of the guild’s guidelines are deemed ineligible year after year, leading to such high-profile recent disqualifications as “The Artist,” “District 9,” “Amour” and Best Original Screenplay Oscar winners “The King’s Speech” and “Django Unchained.”
Foreign films can often qualify if made under the rules of affiliated international guilds, but nevertheless, Abdellatif Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix’s “Blue is the Warmest Color” and Asghar Farhadi’s “The Past” are not on the ballot. Additionally, animated contenders “Monsters University” and “Frozen,” among others, are not eligible, as animated features rarely are.
Others you can strike from your WGA predictions include Richard Curtis’ “About Time,” David Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” and Destin Cretton’s AMPAS Nicholl Fellowship recipient “Short Term 12,” none of which are present on the ballot.
So who benefits from the annual pruning? After all, films like “Knocked Up,” “Crazy Heart” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” have found their way to the WGA slate in lieu of Oscar contenders that eventually beat them to the Academy’s line-up in the past. This time around, it could be contenders such as “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” (still hanging in there), “Labor Day” (Jason Reitman is a two-time guild nominee) and “Her” (maybe a bigger guild player than Academy) that will be looking to capitalize, among others.
But the biggest impact is clearly felt in the adapted category, where sure-fire nominations hog “12 Years a Slave” won’t be in the mix but could easily walk away with the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in March.
(Also, a reminder: This year’s slate of documentary WGA nominees could be a bit different than in years past, as the guild recently extended the same strictures to that category as exacted upon the adapted and original screenplay races.)
Theatrical and documentary WGA nominees will be announced on Friday, Jan. 3.