Oscar organizers face original dilemmas

Tue Dec 9, 2008 3:17am EST
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By Steven Zeitchik

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Three years ago, the Academy surprised a lot of people when it ruled that "Syriana," Stephen Gaghan's interlocking tale of interlocking oil interests, was an original screenplay and not an adapted work.

The most surprised was Gaghan himself, who had worked off Robert Baer's memoir "See No Evil" and already had seen the Writers Guild of America categorize it as adapted.

The original/adapted question has always been slippery, especially as screenwriters' sources of inspiration and material grow ever more complicated.

This year brings a toboggan down another mudslide.

Eric Roth, who won an Oscar for his script adaptation of "Forrest Gump," based his script for the upcoming Brad Pitt movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" on F. Scott Fitzgerald's short-story.

Paramount is campaigning "Button" as an adapted screenplay; the script's idea, it reasonably argues, comes from a short story by Fitzgerald, which in turn was based on a concept from Mark Twain. That's adaptation.

The Academy will go along with the bid and classify it as adapted, insiders say. Still, an argument could be made for the script's, well, originality.

The script is a "based-on" only in the loosest sense -- the movie takes the concept of a man aging backward but uses few of the story's particulars or characters.   Continued...

<p>U.S. director Stephen Gaghan attends news conference to present his out of competition film 'Syriana' at the 56th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 10, 2006. REUTERS/Christian Charisius</p>