A slight wrench has been thrown into the Oscar machine for Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight and Jeff Nichols’ Loving.
EW has confirmed both films’ screenplays are ineligible to compete in the Academy’s original screenplay category, and instead will both have to compete for adapted screenplay recognition.
Jenkins adapted Moonlight, about a young black boy’s maturation on the streets of Miami, from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unproduced play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue; Nichols’ Loving was inspired by Nancy Buirski’s documentary The Loving Story, which chronicles the life of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple imprisoned in Virginia for violating, through marriage, the state’s segregation laws.
Because McCraney’s play was never produced, the Writers Guild of America deemed Moonlight‘s screenplay an original creation, and it could be nominated in the category at the industry union’s annual awards, nominations for which are set to be announced on Jan. 4.
By switching categories, Moonlight — a contender that has performed much better than Loving along the circuit thus far — will now compete against adapted screenplays from Fences, Lion, Arrival, Sully, Hidden Figures, and Love & Friendship for an Oscar nomination. In the original screenplay category, both films faced a harsher battle, as scripts for current Best Picture frontrunner La La Land and fellow heavy-hitter Manchester by the Sea are not based on pre-existing material.
–Reporting by Nicole Sperling