Thursday, December 21, 2006

'The Devil Wears Prada,' Aline Brosh McKenna
Adapted screenplay contender By CAROLE HORST
CATEGORY: Adapted from the novel "The Devil Wears Prada" by Lauren Weisberger

STORYLINE: Recent journalism school grad and fashion-world neophyte Andy (Anne Hathaway) lands plum job as assistant to "boss from hell" Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the editor of fashion bible Runway magazine.

ABOUT THE SCRIPT: "I loved the title," says McKenna. "A lot of times when you read books about the workplace, you don't believe them; the details in this book had the ring of authenticity."

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: "The storyline. The novel didn't have a lot of narrative." McKenna constructed a storyline for the Stanley Tucci character and also "gave Christian (Simon Baker) a story function. We knew we wanted Andy to quit at the end, but when she quits, what is she rejecting? ... It became a choice about what kind of future she wants."
BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: "There was always the problem of why Miranda Priestly would hire Andy, because she was always unsuitable. So I pitched everyone the line: 'Go ahead, hire the smart fat girl.' I thought that would never make it into the movie, but it became a lynchpin."

CHOICE LINE: At the end, seeing Andy across the street, Miranda simply says "Go" to her driver. "That whole scene is a wonderment to me because I feel like she says everything you need to know about Miranda in a nonverbal way: 'I'm nicer than you might know.' There's loss, rejection, warmth -- that's Meryl."


'The Departed,' William Monahan
Adapted screenplay contender By PETER DEBRUGE
DISTRIB/RELEASE DATE: Warner Bros./ Oct. 6
ADAPTED FROM: Screenplay "Infernal Affairs" by Alan Mak and Felix Chong

STORYLINE: A rookie cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) infiltrates the organization of a Boston crime boss (Jack Nicholson), but the mobster has a mole of his own (Matt Damon) in the department who could blow his cover.

ABOUT THE SCRIPT: Although based on the Hong Kong thriller "Infernal Affairs," "In absolute fact, it isn't an 'American' adaptation at all. It's a Bostonian adaptation," says Monahan. "We're pretty much a different country." Though Scorsese added his trademark layer of insider references, Monahan says: "I'm not interested in anything which isn't working on many levels. There's no reason an action film shouldn't also make a literature professor wet himself."
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: "A lot of the stuff that people think you must have chewed pencils over in your garret, you simply don't notice until later," Monahan says. "It's a matter of ear and gut. If it feels right, it's in, and if it doesn't, it isn't." That said, Nicholson brought his own ideas to the part, transforming Costello from a post-sexual old Irishman into a great "new way to play Lear."

BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: "I was thinking about the past, and Boston, and people I'd lost, with real intensity, and had the job not come along I probably would have directed that energy into a novel," Monahan says..

CHOICE LINES: Nicholson asks a local, "How's your mother?" The guy sighs, "She's on her way out," to which Nicholson quips: "We all are. Act accordingly."

'Thank You for Smoking,' Jason ReitmanAdapted screenplay contender By DAVID S. COHEN
DISTRIB/RELEASE DATE: Fox Searchlight/March 17
ADAPTED FROM: Novel "Thank You for Smoking" by Christopher Buckley

STORYLINE: Nick Naylor, lead spokesman for Big Tobacco, fends off a Senate investigation, lawsuits and every manner of bad publicity, all in the name of the public's right to choose -- while trying to set a good example for his young son.

ABOUT THE SCRIPT: This plea for individual responsibility was Reitman's dream project. Story languished in development until he wrote part on spec. That got him attached as writer and director.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: "The main character is the head lobbyist for Big Tobacco. Traditionally he'd either be a villain or you'd expect the guy to have some sort of cosmic change of heart and go work for the Lung Assn. This isn't that film. You had to understand why Nick Naylor does what he does and actually love him for it."

BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: "The creation of Nick's son Joey. The son was in the book, but you never really met him. Joey became the tool by which we understand what Nick does and why. Early on, I realized that if parenting was the answer to spin, then we needed to see Nick being a good father himself."

CHOICE LINES: When a fifth-grader says her mom claims, "Cigarettes kill," Nick asks, "Is your mother a doctor or some sort of scientific researcher?" When she demurs, Nick adds: "Well she doesn't exactly sound like a credible expert, now does she?"

Date in print: Mon., Dec. 18, 2006,, Los Angeles


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