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Academy Ruling: 'American Gangster' and 'In the Valley of Elah' must compete as 'adapted' screenplays

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The adapted screenplay Oscar race will be more heated than at least two studios were hoping. The Academy has ruled that Universal’s American Gangster and Warner Independent’s In the Valley of Elah will be considered adapted screenplays. Both studios had been pushing to have their films deemed

original screenplays, arguing that the respective scripts so drastically strayed from their source material that they could no longer be considered adaptations. Paul Haggis’ Elah came from a Playboy article by Mark Boal, and Steve Zaillian’s Gangster originated as a New York magazine piece by Mark Jacobson. Warner argues that Haggis invented the character played by Charlize Theron, and Universal claims that the addition of a cop, played by Russell Crowe, brought Gangster far from the story on which it was based. Zaillian had appealed the decision by the Academy prior to the holidays and lost; according to a Universal spokesperson, the WGA supported his appeal.

The studios claim their movies aren’t adapted, but they just might be strategizing to ensure that their films have the best chance at a nomination. This year, the original screenplay category is unusually open. With this Academy ruling, two more films must now compete in an already tight category against The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood and Atonement.