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People Are Shocked by ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ Nominees Because They Don’t Know About This Rule

let's talk about squeakquels

Football scene in Top Gun Maverick

Amidst the excitement for the 2023 Academy Award nominations and the fury about this year’s snubs is a question related to one of the Oscars’ oddest rules. Why is Top Gun: Maverick nominated in Best Adapted Screenplay? For that matter, why is Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery? They aren’t based on anything … right? Wrong! Here’s why the writers of Top Gun: Maverick, as well as Rian Johnson, were nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

It doesn’t happen that often, but all prequels and sequels are considered adapted material. They are “based on” characters and storylines from the previous film. According to this technicality, Top Gun: Maverick is based on characters from the film Top Gun. (Tom Cruise’s Maverick isn’t the only returning character in the sequel. Val Kilmer’s Ice also features prominently, Penny is briefly mentioned in the original film, and Miles Teller’s character Bradley is played by a different actor.) Glass Onion‘s adaptive material, meanwhile, is just the character Benoit Blanc from the film Knives Out. Rian Johnson was nominated in Best Original Screenplay for Knives Out, but has now swapped categories. Love it.

This isn’t the first time that sequels have been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay

Prior examples of this rule in effect include Before Midnight and Before Sunset, as well as Toy Story 3. That’s kind of it! The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won Best Adapted Screenplay in 2008, but that of course is based on a novel by JRR Tolkien. It’s not just a sequel. Both Borat films are considered adaptations of the character Borat from Da Ali G Show, but it’s a similar ruling. Any movie based on a television show is considered an adaptation of “characters from” the show even if it’s not adapting the plot of a particular season or episode.

Typically, we think of adaptations as movies based on books, short stories, memoirs, plays, films, and comics. Maybe you’ve heard of a film that was adapted from an article. But inspiration comes from a wide variety of places.

There have been other unexpected nominees in the Best Adapted Screenplay category over the years

For example, Damien Chazelle was nominated in 2014 for adapting his own short film into Whiplash. In 1942, the winning screenplay was Mrs. Miniver, adapted from a series of newspaper columns about the fictional Kay Miniver. Your English teacher was right to show you O Brother Where Art Thou in class. The Academy nominated it for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2000 for adapting Homer’s epic poem Odyssey. Bradley Cooper’s 2018 A Star is Born was nominated as an adaptation of the 1954 A Star is Born, the 1976 A Star is Born, the 1937 A Star is Born—which itself was nominated as an adaptation of a short story—and that short story.

Personally, I think we should mix it up even more. 2020’s Zola should have been the first movie adapted from a Twitter thread to be nominated for an Oscar, but I digress. Will Maverick and Glass Onion‘s Oscar success usher in more sequels in the Adapted Screenplay category over the years? I, for one, would love to see genre films get recognized for writing. But pitting fans of major IP franchises against book readers doesn’t exactly seem like a fun time. We’ll see!

(featured image: Paramount Pictures)

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Leah is 50% Southerner, 50% New Englander, and 100% fangirl over everything from Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter to stage lighting and Marvel comics about teenagers. She used to test toys for Hasbro (true story).