Oscars Shakeup: ‘Barbie’ Moves to Adapted Screenplay Despite Campaigning for Original (EXCLUSIVE)

Oscars Shakeup: ‘Barbie’ Moves to Adapted Screenplay Despite Campaigning for Original (EXCLUSIVE)

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Greta Gerwig‘s blockbuster comedy “Barbie” has been deemed an adapted screenplay by the Writers Branch executive committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, despite campaigning for original screenplay, Variety has exclusively learned.

When official Oscar nomination voting opens Thursday, Jan. 11, eligible voting members of the branch will only be able to cast votes for the script written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach in adapted screenplay.

The film tells the story of Barbie (Margot Robbie), who suffers a crisis in Barbie World, leading her on a quest with her beau Ken (Ryan Gosling) to the real world to seek the answers regarding her existence.

Read: Variety’s Awards Circuit for the latest Oscars predictions in all categories.

Variety had exclusively reported “Barbie” would be campaigned for best original screenplay for the upcoming awards season rather than in adapted screenplay as had been presumed. The decision brought about some interesting debate on social media. The film was designated an original work by the Writers Guild of America. That classification will stick for their upcoming WGA Awards. However, due to the Hollywood strikes, the precursors are not as crucial in years past after shifting the ceremony to April following the Oscars ceremony.

Within the Writer’s Branch, a committee determines the eligibility of movies in their submitted categorizations and isn’t bound to follow what the WGA decides. In years past, films, including Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” (2016), were campaigned and labeled as “original” by the WGA due to the play it was based on never being published but being moved to adapted by the committee. Jenkins’ film went on to win the category, along with two other Oscars, including best picture. Other switched scripts over the years include nominees Stephen Gaghan’s “Syriana” (2005), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (2018), and even non-nominated films like Jeff Nichols’ “Loving” (2016).

Barbie Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Gerwig, who is the first woman to helm a billion-dollar movie, has been nominated for three Oscars – “Little Women” (2019) in adapted and “Lady Bird” (2016) for original screenplay and directing. She’s one of seven women ever nominated for directing. If nominated this year, she would be the second to be recognized a second time, following winner Jane Campion for “The Power of the Dog” (2021).

Gerwig’s writing partner and husband, Baumbach, also has three nods to his credit – two for the original for “The Squid and the Whale” (2005) and “Marriage Story” (2018), and a best picture nod for the latter. This could be a great way to give both beloved filmmakers their due. In adapted, it will face off against “Poor Things” by Tony McNamara, “Killers of the Flower Moon” by Eric Roth and Martin Scorsese, and its “Barbenheimer” arch-nemesis, “Oppenheimer” by Christopher Nolan.

With the film out of original, that leaves an opening for a new frontrunner to take the pole position. Films such as Celine Song’s “Past Lives” and Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers” could be the ones to duke it out, while Todd Haynes’ “May December” and Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall” have both performed very well on the precursors circuit.

Gerwig’s meta-comedy tied the Golden Globes’ record held by “Cabaret” (1972) as the second-most nominations in the organization’s history with nine, including best picture (comedy or musical). We expect it to do very well at Sunday’s ceremony, notably likely winning the award for best screenplay (which the Globes combine among all works and genres). The BAFTA longlist will be released on Friday, where “Barbie” was also deemed original and is likely to appear on the list of 10 finalists before noms are announced later in January.

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