‘Spotlight’ Co-Writer Josh Singer Talks To Us About Today’s Oscar Nomination

Josh Singer
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Back in November (a lifetime ago in “award dinners and ceremonies” years), when I met Spotlight co-screenwriter Josh Singer out at a New York City coffee shop, he was what could be described as “bright-eyed” about the whole awards season spectacle. This is his first time through this and, as he noted then, people wanted to talk to him a whole lot more at the after party for the premiere of Spotlight — an Oscar favorite about the Boston Globe team who broke the story about the abuse of children by members of the Catholic church — than they did at The Fifth Estate party a couple of years prior. Well, now Singer is an Oscar nominee for Original Screenplay (along with his co-writer and the film’s director, Tom McCarthy) and, yes, many more people will now want to talk with him.

Last time we spoke, you mentioned how people were much happier to talk to you after the Spotlight premiere than The Fifth Estate. People are probably treating you differently today, too.

[Laughing.] Well, that’s funny. I got a call, Jonathan King, the head of film at Participant, and we spoke on the phone at 5:45 in the morning. And they did The Fifth Estate, as well as Spotlight and I was sort of joking, “Oh, wait, I got nominated for The Fifth Estate? Fantastic!” But, in a way, I did get nominated for The Fifth Estate, because the work I did there was just so foundational. I learned so much about journalism … and I took all of that into this project. But this is definitely a nice way to wake up on a January morning.

How were you feeling last night? You had to be optimistic?

You know, I was nervous. What was great, in my head, is if we got five nominations, it was going to be a great morning. And we got six, so I was really blown away. Look, it’s thrilling to be nominated. Period. But, beyond that, it’s pretty exciting when you see Tom McCarthy’s work being recognized. Yes, his craft is subtle, but it’s terrific. What he does with casting and actors and visual composition is more subtle than your George Miller’s world.

This is true, Spotlight is more subtle than Mad Max: Fury Road.

But, to me, it’s in service of the same thing, which is telling a great story and having people walk out of the theater being moved and having emotionally connected. So, it’s thrilling to see him recognized. And it’s thrilling to see Tom McArdle [for Film Editing] recognized. Look, we have great actors, but great actors are made better by great editors. And we such a great cast…

Including Oscar nominees Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams.

To have Mark and Rachel as the head of that class, nominated… Mark was the first guy to sign on board and the first guy to say, “This is an important movie.” And we built the movie around him and he’s wonderful, and he’s a lovely human and he’s doing such great work. And Rachel, too – Rachel’s work is incredibly subtle, right? And it’s incredibly refined.

Last time we spoke was in November before awards season really kicked in. So … how are you holding up?

[Laughing.] You warned me! You warned me it would get different.

How are you doing?

I will just say, it’s a roller coaster, right? There are so many ups and downs! It’s crazy!

I think a lot of people who don’t pay attention to all of this don’t realize how many smaller awards there are before the big ones that you have to go through. And with every one, you take that as “We’re doing well,” or, “Well, I guess we’re not doing well.”

It’s very wacky. Look, I have to say, personally I was sad Aaron Sorkin didn’t get nominated this morning. I mean, Aaron is the reason I’m in the business. The West Wing literally lured me to Hollywood. Him doing The West Wing is literally the reason I came to Hollywood. I thought, “Oh, that’s a guy creating great entertainment and having a conversation with the American people.” I thought if I could do that, that would be incredible. Though I never worked directly with Aaron, he inspired me to come out here. So, I was definitely a little sad that he wasn’t nominated this morning.

And you lost the Golden Globe to him.

Yeah, it’s funny how these things work, right? And frankly you look at all the other scripts in the Adapted category and they’re all fantastic. Sometimes these things are wacky and sometimes they are fluky and it does really create an up and down ride. It’s the funniest thing, right? You really just have to strap in and try to go along with the ride as long as you can.

Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.