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Adaptation (film)

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Adaptation.
Adaptation. film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySpike Jonze
Screenplay by
Based onThe Orchid Thief
by Susan Orlean
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyLance Acord
Edited byEric Zumbrunnen
Music byCarter Burwell
Production
companies
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • December 6, 2002 (2002-12-06) (United States)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$19 million
Box office$32.8 million[2]

Adaptation (stylized Adaptation.) is a 2002 American meta comedy-drama film directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman. The film stars Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, and Chris Cooper with Cara Seymour, Brian Cox, Tilda Swinton, Ron Livingston, and Maggie Gyllenhaal in supporting roles.

Kaufman based Adaptation on his struggles to adapt Orlean's 1998 nonfiction book The Orchid Thief while suffering from writer's block. It involves elements adapted from the book, plus fictitious elements, including Kaufman's twin brother (also credited as a writer for the film) and a romance between Orlean and Laroche. It culminates in completely invented elements, including versions of Orlean and Laroche three years after the events of The Orchid Thief.

Adaptation was praised for its direction, screenplay, humor, and the performances of Cage, Cooper and Streep. It received awards at the 75th Academy Awards, 60th Golden Globe Awards, and 56th British Academy Film Awards, with Cooper winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and Kaufman winning the BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. A British Film Institute poll ranked it one of the thirty best films of the 2000s.[3]

Plot[edit]

Self-loathing screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is hired to write the screenplay adaptation of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief. He struggles with anxiety, social phobia, depression, and low self-esteem. His twin brother, Donald, has moved into his house and is freeloading there. Donald decides to become a screenwriter like Charlie and attends seminars by screenwriting guru Robert McKee.

Charlie, who rejects formulaic scriptwriting, wants to ensure that his script is a faithful adaptation of The Orchid Thief but comes to feel that the book does not have a usable narrative and is impossible to turn into a film, which leaves him with a serious case of writer's block. Already well past his deadline with Columbia Pictures and despairing of writing his script with self-reference, Charlie travels to New York City to discuss the screenplay with Orlean directly. Too shy and socially awkward to speak with her upon arriving at her office and after he received the surprising news that Donald's spec script for a clichéd psychological thriller, The 3, is selling for six or seven figures, Charlie resorts to attending McKee's seminar in New York and asks him for advice. Charlie ends up asking Donald to join him in New York to assist with the story structure.

Donald, who is confident socially, pretends to be Charlie and interviews Orlean but finds her responses suspicious. He and Charlie follow Orlean to Florida, where she meets John Laroche, the orchid-stealing protagonist of her book and her secret lover. It is revealed that the Seminole wanted the ghost orchid to manufacture a mind-altering drug that causes fascination. Laroche introduces the drug to Orlean. After Laroche and Orlean catch Charlie observing them taking the drug and having sex, Orlean decides that Charlie must be killed to prevent him from exposing her adultery and drug use.

Orlean forces Charlie to drive to the swamp at gunpoint, intending to kill him. Charlie and Donald escape and hide in the swamp, where they resolve their differences. Laroche accidentally shoots Donald. Charlie and Donald drive off but collide head-on with a ranger's truck. Donald is ejected through the windshield and dies moments later, but Charlie is saved by the airbag and runs into the swamp to hide. There he is spotted by Laroche, who is killed by an alligator before he can kill Charlie.

Orlean is arrested. Charlie reconciles with his mother as he calls to inform her of Donald's death. He later tells his former love interest, Amelia, that he loves her. She responds that she loves him too. Charlie finishes the script, which ends with him announcing in a voice-over that the script is finished and that for the first time, he is filled with hope.

Cast[edit]

Nicolas Cage portrays Charlie and Donald Kaufman through split screen photography.

Tom Hanks was originally set for the double role of Charlie and Donald Kaufman. Cage took the role for a $5 million salary,[4] and wore a fatsuit during filming.[5]

Streep expressed strong interest in the role of Susan Orlean before being cast,[4] and took a salary cut in recognition of the film's budget.[6] John Turturro was approached to portray John Laroche.[7] Cooper strongly considered turning down Laroche, but accepted it after his wife urged him to.[8] Albert Finney, Christopher Plummer, Terence Stamp and Michael Caine were considered for the role of Robert McKee, but McKee personally suggested Brian Cox to filmmakers.[9]

Litefoot and Jay Tavare have small roles as Seminole. John Cusack, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich, Lance Acord and Spike Jonze have uncredited cameos as themselves in scenes where Charlie Kaufman is on the set of Being John Malkovich, which he also wrote. Additional cameos include Doug Jones as explorer Augustus Margary, director Curtis Hanson as Orlean's husband, and David O. Russell as a New Yorker journalist.

Production[edit]

The emotions that Charlie is going through [in the film] are real and they reflect what I was going through when I was trying to write the script. Of course there are specific things that have been exaggerated or changed for cinematic purposes. Part of the experience of watching this movie is the experience of seeing that Donald Kaufman is credited as the co-screenwriter. It's part of the movie, it's part of the story.

—Charlie Kaufman on writing the script[10]

The idea to do a film adaptation of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief dates back to 1994.[11] Fox 2000 purchased the film rights in 1997,[12] eventually selling them to Jonathan Demme, who set the project at Columbia Pictures. Charlie Kaufman was hired to write the script, but struggled with the adaptation and writer's block.[13] Kaufman eventually created a script of his experience in adaptation, exaggerating events and creating a fictional twin brother. He put Donald Kaufman's name on the script and dedicated the film to him.[1] By September 1999, Kaufman had written two drafts of the script;[14] he turned in a third draft in November 2000.[15]

Kaufman said, "The idea of how to write the film didn't come to me until quite late. It was the only idea I had, I liked it, and I knew there was no way it would be approved if I pitched it. So I just wrote it and never told the people I was writing it for. I only told Spike Jonze, as we were making Being John Malkovich and he saw how frustrated I was. Had he said I was crazy, I don't know what I would have done".[16] He also said, "I really thought I was ending my career by turning that in!"[17]

Adaptation went on fast track in April 2000, with Kaufman making some revisions.[18] Scott Brake of IGN gave the script a positive review in June 2000,[19] as did Drew McWeeny of Ain't It Cool News in October.[20] Columbia Pictures committed to North America distribution only after Intermedia came aboard to finance the film in exchange for international distribution rights.[21] Filming started in late March 2001 in Los Angeles and finished by June.[7] The "evolution" fantasy sequence was created by Digital Domain, while Skywalker Sound handled audio post production services. The makeup effects (the Nicolas Cage double, Chris Cooper's teeth, and the alligator attack) are by makeup effects designer Tony Gardner and his effects company Alterian, Inc.

Release[edit]

Columbia Pictures at one point announced a late 2001 theatrical release date,[7] but Adaptation opened on December 6, 2002, in the United States for a limited release. The film was released nationwide on February 14, 2003, earning $1,130,480 in its opening weekend in 672 theaters. It went on to gross $22.5 million in North America and $10.3 million in foreign countries, for a total of $32.8 million.[2]

Home media[edit]

Adaptation was released on DVD and VHS by Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment in May 2003. Image Entertainment released a bare-bones Blu-ray in 2012, which was followed in 2020 by another release through Shout! Factory.

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

The performances of (left to right) Nicolas Cage, Chris Cooper and Meryl Streep garnered critical acclaim and were nominated for Academy Awards, with Cooper winning.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 91% based on 211 reviews, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Dizzyingly original, the loopy, multi-layered Adaptation is both funny and thought-provoking."[22] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 83 out of 100, based on 40 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."[23] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C" on an A+ to F scale.[24]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars, writing that it "leaves you breathless with curiosity, as it teases itself with the directions it might take. To watch the film is to be actively involved in the challenge of its creation."[25] He later added the film to his "Great Movies" collection.[26] At the end of 2009, Ebert named the film one of the best of the decade. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also gave the film a four-star rating, writing, "Screenwriting this smart, inventive, passionate and rip-roaringly funny is a rare species. So all praise to Charlie Kaufman, working with director Spike Jonze to create the most original and outrageous film comedy since the two first teamed on Being John Malkovich, in 1999."[27] Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe wrote, "This is epic, funny, tragic, demanding, strange, original, boldly sincere filmmaking. And the climax, the portion that either sinks the entire movie or self-critically explains how so many others derail, is bananas."[28] David Ansen of Newsweek wrote that Meryl Streep had not "been this much fun to watch in years",[29] while Mike Clark of USA Today gave a largely negative review, mainly criticizing the ending: "Too smart to ignore but a little too smugly superior to like, this could be a movie that ends up slapping its target audience in the face by shooting itself in the foot."[30] Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic wrote, "Adaptation is almost juvenile showing off—daring to make a film that is in search of a script".[31]

Accolades[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[32] Best Actor Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Nominated
AARP Movies for Grownups Awards[33] Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Feature Film – Comedy or Musical Eric Zumbrunnen Nominated
American Film Institute Awards[34] Top 10 Movies of the Year Won
Awards Circuit Community Awards (2002) Best Motion Picture Jonathan Demme, Vincent Landay and Edward Saxon Nominated
Best Director Spike Jonze Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Chris Cooper Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Meryl Streep Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
Best Achievement in Film Editing Eric Zumbrunnen Nominated
Best Cast Ensemble Nicolas Cage, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Cara Seymour, Meryl Streep and Tilda Swinton Nominated
Awards Circuit Community Awards (2012) Best Adapted Screenplay of the Decade Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Runner-up
Belgian Film Critics Association Awards[35] Grand Prix Spike Jonze Nominated
Berlin International Film Festival[36] Golden Bear Nominated
Grand Jury Prize Won
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards[37] Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
British Academy Film Awards[38] Best Actor in a Leading Role Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Chris Cooper Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
British Comedy Awards[39] Best Comedy Film Nominated
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Awards[40] Best Picture 2nd Place
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[41] Best Film Nominated
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
Most Promising Performer Maggie Gyllenhaal (also for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Secretary) Won
Chlotrudis Awards[42] Best Actor Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Supporting Actor (Public Winner) Chris Cooper Won
Best Original Screenplay (Public Winner) Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
Critics' Choice Movie Awards[43] Top 10 Films Won
Best Picture Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Writer Charlie Kaufman (also for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) Won
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Top 10 Films 7th Place
Best Film Nominated
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Won
Dublin Film Critics' Circle Awards Best Film of the Decade 15th Place
Florida Film Critics Circle Awards[44] Best Film Won
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
Gold Derby Awards (2002)[45] Best Lead Actor Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
Best Ensemble Cast Nicolas Cage, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Cara Seymour, Meryl Streep and Tilda Swinton Nominated
Gold Derby Awards (2009) Best Supporting Actor of the Decade Chris Cooper Nominated
Best Supporting Actress of the Decade Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay of the Decade Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[46] Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Chris Cooper Won
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Meryl Streep Won
Best Director – Motion Picture Spike Jonze Nominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Nominated
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing in a Feature – Music – Feature Film Adam Milo Smalley Nominated
Golden Schmoes Awards Best Comedy of the Year Won
Best Director of the Year Spike Jonze Nominated
Best Actor of the Year Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Supporting Actor of the Year Chris Cooper Nominated
Best Supporting Actress of the Year Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Screenplay of the Year Charlie Kaufman Won
Trippiest Movie of the Year Nominated
Favorite Movie Poster of the Year Nominated
Golden Trailer Awards Best Comedy Nominated
Best Drama Nominated
International Online Cinema Awards Best Motion Picture Nominated
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
Best Film Editing Eric Zumbrunnen Nominated
Best Ensemble Cast Nominated
Italian Online Movie Awards Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards[47] Best Supporting Actor Won
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards[48] Best Actor Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Nominated
Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Nominated
London Film Critics Circle Awards Actor of the Year Nicolas Cage Nominated
Actress of the Year Meryl Streep Nominated
Screenwriter of the Year Charlie Kaufman Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards[49] Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Runner-up
National Board of Review Awards[50] Top 10 Films 5th Place
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman (also for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Human Nature) Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards[51] Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper 2nd Place
New York Film Critics Circle Awards[52] Best Supporting Actor Runner-up
Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
Online Film & Television Association Awards[53] Best Picture Jonathan Demme, Vincent Landay and Edward Saxon Nominated
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
Best Casting Justine Arteta and Kim Davis-Wagner Won
Best Ensemble Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Awards[54] Top 10 Films 4th Place
Best Picture Nominated
Best Director Spike Jonze Nominated
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
Best Editing Eric Zumbrunnen Nominated
Best Ensemble Nominated
PEN Center USA West Literary Awards Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards[55] Best Actor in a Leading Role Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Chris Cooper Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Nominated
Best Acting Ensemble Nominated
Producers Guild of America Awards[56] Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures Edward Saxon, Jonathan Demme and Vincent Landay Nominated
Russian Guild of Film Critics Awards Best Foreign Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards Best Director Spike Jonze Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Screenplay – Adapted Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Sant Jordi Awards Best Foreign Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Satellite Awards[57] Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Chris Cooper Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Screenplay – Adapted Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
Best Film Editing Eric Zumbrunnen Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards[58] Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nicolas Cage, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Cara Seymour, Meryl Streep and Tilda Swinton Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Nicolas Cage Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Chris Cooper Nominated
Seattle Film Critics Awards Best Supporting Actor Won
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards[59] Best Picture 4th Place
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Won
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards[60] Best Picture Won
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Won
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Won
USC Scripter Awards[61] Charlie Kaufman (screenwriter); Susan Orlean (author) Nominated
Utah Film Critics Association Awards[62] Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Runner-up
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Awards[63] Best Actor Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won
Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Village Voice Film Poll[64] Best Film 3rd Place
Best Lead Performance Nicolas Cage 9th Place
Best Supporting Performance Chris Cooper Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Won
Visual Effects Society Awards[65] Best Performance by an Actor in an Effects Film Nicolas Cage Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards[66] Best Film Runner-up
Best Director Spike Jonze Won[b]
Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper Won[c]
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Won
Writers Guild of America Awards[67] Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Nominated

In a 2005 survey, the Writers Guild of America named Adaptation the 77th best movie screenplay ever written.[68]

Response from Susan Orlean[edit]

Having been submitted the screenplay for approval, Susan Orlean was strongly opposed to the making of the film; she ended up reluctantly approving its production and was ultimately very impressed with the final result. In 2012, she said, "[reading the screenplay] was a complete shock. My first reaction was 'Absolutely not!' They had to get my permission and I just said: 'No! Are you kidding? This is going to ruin my career!' Very wisely, they didn't really pressure me. They told me that everybody else had agreed and I somehow got emboldened. It was certainly scary to see the movie for the first time. It took a while for me to get over the idea that I had been insane to agree to it, but I love the movie now."

Orlean called Streep's portrayal of her "one of my favorite performances by her" and appreciated that her version of the character was based not on the real Orlean but on how Streep imagined Orlean based on The Orchid Thief. Despite the film's fictional parts, Orlean praised its fidelity to the book's spirit: "What I admire the most is that it's very true to the book's themes of life and obsession, and there are also insights into things which are much more subtle in the book about longing, and about disappointment."[69]

See also[edit]

Films

Literature

  • Levinson, Julie (Spring 2007). "Adaptation, Metafiction, Self-Creation". Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture. 40: 1.
  • McKee, Robert (1997). Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting.
  • Orlean, Susan (1998). The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Kaufman is credited as "Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman", despite Donald being a fictional character created for the film.[1]
  2. ^ Tied with Sam Mendes for Road to Perdition and Denzel Washington for Antwone Fisher.
  3. ^ Tied with Dennis Haysbert for Far from Heaven.

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b "Adaptation. (2002)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 8, 2008.
  3. ^ "Sight & Sound's films of the decade". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on March 22, 2019. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Claude Brodesser; Charles Lyons; Dana Harris (August 23, 2000). "Cage has Adaptation. inclination". Variety. Retrieved April 5, 2008.
  5. ^ Stax (May 3, 2001). "Hey, Fatboy!". IGN. Retrieved April 5, 2008.
  6. ^ Claude Brodesser (September 6, 2000). "Streep eyes Adaptation.". Variety. Retrieved April 5, 2008.
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  9. ^ Lynn Smith (November 3, 2002). "Being Robert McKee, both on screen and off". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Spence D (December 5, 2002). "Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman Discuss Adaptation". IGN. Retrieved April 5, 2008.
  11. ^ Bill Desowittz (August 18, 2002). "Development players make personal choices". Variety. Retrieved April 5, 2008.
  12. ^ Oliver Jones (December 17, 1999). "Cruise in tune with Shaggs project". Variety. Retrieved April 5, 2008.
  13. ^ Jonathan Bing (February 26, 2001). "Lit properties are still hottest tickets". Variety. Retrieved April 5, 2008.
  14. ^ Charlie Kaufman (September 24, 1999). "Adaptation.: Second Draft" (PDF). BeingCharlieKaufman.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 7, 2008. Retrieved April 16, 2008.
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External links[edit]