Underdogs of the Southern Wild: Best Adapted Screenplay

This article was written by Harry Hansford.


So far in this series I have championed Beasts of the Southern Wild for the Best Picture (which can be read here) and Best Director (which can be read here), both of which have very little chance of winning. However in this part I am looking at the Best Adapted Screenplay award which it has slightly more chance of winning although it still probably won’t. On the other hand it has more chance of scooping this one then it does the other two.

beastsscriptA segment from Beasts of the Southern Wild’s script.

Benh Zetlin and Lucy Alibar are up for this award for the work they did on adapting the little known stage play Juicy and Delicious also by Lucy Alibar to the big screen. There is no doubt this is one of the most original scripts of the year and probably the most original of the five nominated however the key is that this isn’t the Best Original Screenplay award. It is not about how original the script is but how well adapted it is and as usual we will first look at the competition and then at Beasts of the Southern Wild.



  • Adapted from not one but two sources the book The Master of Disguise by Anthony Mendez and an article The Great Escape by Jousha Bearman. Both of which are based upon the ‘Canadian Caper’ a historical event where the Canadian government rescued American hostages in Iran.
  • The script was written by Chris Terrio who has done a brilliant job at not only surpassing the original TV movie (which probably wasn’t that hard to do) but has somehow managed to create a thriller that’s believable about a subject that is absurd and unbelievable.
  • Argo’s script is genuinely one of the strongest of the year and deserves to be nominated. It takes the standard caper format, applies it to a famous real life caper and somehow manages to stay fresh and because of this Beasts would have to feel no shame in losing to such a strong script.

Life of Pi

  • Adapted from Yann Martel’s novel of the same name, David Magee’s script for Life of Pi seems a solid choice for Best Adapted Screenplay as its based upon a novel some deemed un-filmable due mainly to its extensive time at sea where the protagonist has nothing but a tiger as company.
  • Magee creates a character who is both interesting and sympathetic and a story that not only holds your attention but also takes you on a physical and emotional journey throughout the 127 minutes.
  • However looking at the competition, I don’t see Magee walking away with the Oscar, it just doesn’t seem relevant enough for the Academy.

lifeofpibookfilmLife of Pi


  • Successful author, playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner adapted Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln for the Spielberg helmed biopic and could very well be one of many awards for the film
  • Like the book, the film makes the brave decision to focus solely on Lincoln in the years 1861 – 1865 and his political decisions.
  • The film’s script is probably its strongest point and adds something a lot of historical films lack, heart. The script has no qualms about what it wants to be. It wants to be a hard-hitting historical film that is made to win awards and that is just what it might do.
  • The script gives the film relevance and something new to a well-documented story and for that, the script has to be recognised.

Silver Linings Playbook

  • David O. Russell adapted Matthew Quick’s novel of the same name himself and has said to have rewrote the script thirty three times over five years meaning that a lot of the story has changed and evolved. However the themes have stayed the same which is important to note as it is the themes and the relevancy of those themes that make this a big contender for the Oscar.
  • The narrative itself seems very straightforward but the issues and underlying context make for an interesting film.
  • The script also uses the context in a way which is rarely done by allowing its audience to see the light heartedness, almost comical side of mental health, something that only someone with firsthand experience like Russell could bring.

So as you can see, it’s a hard battle Zetlin and Alibar have on their hands. It seems likely to be an Argo/Lincoln battle but Silver Linings Playbook could surprise and triumph. In my mind however, Beasts deserves it. It took a little known play about a young boy named hushpuppy living in Georgia trying to keep his world together while his Dad was dying and made it a film about a young girl named hushpuppy who lived in a magical community called the bathtub in New Orleans, Louisiana. And while the world around her started to crumble and folklore started to become a reality, she carried on fighting for her family.

Not forgetting to mention it gave us one of the strongest characters of all time and probably the strongest child character ever put on screen but more on that in the next and final part…



One thought on “Underdogs of the Southern Wild: Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Pingback: Underdogs of the Southern Wild: Best Actress in a Leading Performance |

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