Oscar winners Robert De Niro (“Raging Bull,” “The Godfather Part II”) and Penelope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) presented the Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay at the 86th Annual Academy Awards which aired live on March 2 on ABC.
Each year, the Oscars celebrate the biggest and brightest in films in a variety of acting and technical categories, including writing. Every movie starts with a story that is typically written in a 90-120 page screenplay. Some screenplays are based on previous creative works like novels and plays and others are entirely original stories.
Every screenplay, original or adapted, starts with a blank page, the words “Fade In” and the writer’s idea. Getting that idea down into final form can be a daunting, mind-bending process for even the most seasoned storytellers.
Robert De Niro described this fact with hilarious honesty before announcing this year’s Best Adapted Screenplay nominees.
He said, “The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”
Penelope Cruz piped in with, “Yes, but, if everything goes well in the end there is a screenplay.”
Anyone who writes for a living (or hopes to) knows exactly how true Robert De Niro’s statement is. 2014 was a great year for movies, which were products of some of the best screenplays written to date.
This year’s 2014 Best Adapted Screenplay nominees were:
- “Before Midnight” by Richard Linklater
- “Captain Phillips” by Billy Ray
- “Philomena” by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
- “The Wolf of Wall Street” by Terence Winter
- “12 Years a Slave” by John Ridley
John Ridley took home the Oscar for “12 Years a Slave” which also won two more Oscars with Lupita Nyong'o snagging Best Supporting Actress and the film earning this year’s highest honor of Best Picture. Ridley’s Adapted Screenplay win marks his first Oscar and he is the second African-American writer to win this award, following Geoffrey Fletcher’s win for “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” at the 82nd Academy Awards in 2010.
"12 Years a Slave" is an adaptation of the 1853 memoir of the same name written by Solomon Northup. It's a riveting tale of how free-born African-American Northup was kidnapped and sold into slavery for 12 years.
Best Original Screenplay nominees were:
- “American Hustle” by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
- “Blue Jasmine” by Woody Allen
- “Dallas Buyers Club” by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
- “Nebraska” by Bob Nelson
- “Her” by Spike Jonze
Spike Jonze is a four-time Academy Award nominee including Best Director for “Being John Malkovich” and three nominations for “Her” including Best Picture, and Best Original Song for “The Moon Song,” in addition to his Best Original Screenplay nomination and win.
"Her" tells the story of a man who develops a relationship with his intelligent female-voiced operating system and marks Jonze's first solo screenplay.
Click here for an entire list of 2014 Oscar winners.