Political films still hot topic in Hollywood

Mon Dec 10, 2007 4:16pm EST
 
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By Steven Zeitchik

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Politically themed films might be tanking at the box office, but executives are still salivating over the genre, according to a ranking of hot scripts making the rounds at Hollywood agencies.

According to the Black List, compiled annually by production executive Franklin Leonard, five of the top six scripts were political in nature.

Danny Strong's HBO Films election drama "Recount" came in at No. 1, and Beau Willimon's political thriller about a politician's communication director, "Farragut North," which has been plucked by Warner Bros., finished at No 2.

The Black List, released Friday, polls an estimated 150 development execs and other officials for their favorite scripts that won't be produced and released in the next year, and then ranks them according to the greatest number of mentions. "Recount" turned up on the lists of an overwhelming 44 executives.

One part popularity contest and one part tip sheet, the Black List has in its three years of existence become an essential tool for determining the state of the script business. It also provides a kind of zeitgeist barometer, indicating what types of projects and scribes are currently in vogue. This year's list suggests that political themes continue to offer extensive dramatic fodder, even as the potential for box office remains limited, as exhibited by such films as "Lions for Lambs" and "In the Valley of Elah."

The sixth-most popular script was the most topical of all; occupying that slot was Steve Knight's "Curveball," a Focus Features project about false intelligence information in Iraq.

More than 40 scripts this year on the list were cited by at least five development execs, and more than 100 got at least two mentions, the minimum required for a spot on the Black List.

It's impossible to lobby for a spot on the list, but agents and studios wait with bated breath to see if their clients or scripts make the cut. And the list tends either to predict or reinforce success. Current releases "Juno" and "Lars and the Real Girl" were previous top-five finishers.   Continued...

 
<p>Tom Cruise in a scene from "Lions for Lambs" in an image courtesy of United Artists. Politically themed films might be tanking at the box office, but executives are still salivating over the genre, according to a ranking of hot scripts making the rounds at Hollywood agencies. REUTERS/Handout</p>