Lit's-Eye View: Recapping Hollywood's 2012 Black List

Image © Shutterstock
Image © Shutterstock

What do "Frost/Nixon," "The Descendants," "Up in the Air," and "Little Children" have in common? Besides all being nominated for best adapted screenplay Oscars, each at one point appeared on the Black List -- Hollywood’s annual rankings of that year’s hottest unproduced screenplays. Since 2005, former film executive Franklin Leonard has been surveying industry execs about their favorite scripts, compiling a list of those that garner the most votes. With a pretty solid track record for spotlighting scripts that will go on to celluloid renown (other notables include "Slumdog Millionaire," "Juno," and this year’s "Argo"), when the list drops, folks pay attention. And we’re no different; after scouring the 2012 Black List, here’s our cheat sheet for some of the most exciting adaptations that may be coming soon to a theater near you.

Story of Your Life
As soon as word broke that Ted Chiang’s Nebula Award-winning novella Story of Your Life was headed for the big screen, sci-fi sites were abuzz with anticipation. And no wonder -- Chiang has been called one of the most “important new voices” in short stories, bridging the gap between literary and genre fiction. In Story of Your Life, aliens have landed, and to gauge whether their motives are nefarious or peaceful, the military enlists linguist Dr. Louise Banks to learn to communicate with them. It’s a thriller, for sure, but with a strong emotional core, and we’re hoping the resulting movie, adapted by "Nightmare on Elm Street" scribe Eric Heisserer, will have the same tonal range.

The Fault in Our Stars
In his Time Magazine review of John Green’s funny, heart-wrenching YA novel about a romance between two teens who meet in a cancer support group, Lev Grossman called The Fault in Our Stars an “instant classic,” likely to take “its place alongside Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret in the young-adult canon.” Heady praise, but the New York Times bestseller quickly won over teen fans and adult critics alike, and the film version, written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the team behind "500 Days of Summer," is already generating buzz about who will play Augustus and Hazel, the endearingly quirky central young couple. Luckily, Wyck Godfrey, who was behind all of the "Twilight" movies and knows how to handle (and build) buzz is on board to produce.

Hold On to Me
Based on an article by investigative reporter Hillel Levin and James Keene, this black comedy is slated to star Carey Mulligan as a down-and-out woman who manipulates a similarly unlucky fellow into kidnapping and holding for ransom the town’s richest man. Robert Pattinson recently signed on to co-star, and Brad Ingelsby, one of Hollywood’s hottest screenwriters has penned the script. With a story that’s being compared to Gus Van Sant’s wicked "To Die For" and casting that brings together Edward Cullen and Daisy Buchanan, this is one we’re particularly jonesing for.

King of Heists
It’s a perfect set-up for a stylish, sexy heist movie: George Leslie, a young, handsome architect moves to Gilded Age Manhattan and quickly ensconces himself in New York’s high society, while simultaneously scheming one of the largest bank robberies in American history. Screenwriter Will Staples has adapted J. North Conway’s true-crime page-turner, King of Heists: The Sensational Bank Robbery of 1878 That Shocked America, and Jeremy Renner, who was nominated for an Oscar for his previous heist turn ("The Town") has signed on to star and produce.

It’s like "Hitchcock" but with Thing One and Thing Two flying kites instead of Scarlett Johansson vamping in the shower. This biopic by Eyal Podell and Jonathan Stewart tells the story behind the story as down-and-out, pre-Seuss Ted Geisel creates The Cat in the Hat, thanks to the inspiration of his future wife Helen. It’s not a traditional adaptation, but with the classic children’s book at its center, it handily makes our list.

Me & Earl & The Dying Girl
The second self-deprecating-but-clever-teen-wrestles-with-the-death-of-a-friend-from-cancer adaptation on this list. But no less intriguing. First-time screenwriter Jesse Andrews has adapted his YA novel of the same name, the story of an unlikely trio of high school buddies, one of whom is dying of leukemia. That Andrews himself penned the screenplay will please fans and critics who praised the novel’s unique voice and sense of humor, but the neophyte didn’t do it alone. Dan Fogelman, who wrote "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and is on board to direct "Me & Earl," ushered him along in the process. John Hughes comparisons are already circling, so, yeah, we’re excited.

Also worth noting: Rodham
One of the most anticipated scripts on this year’s list is this Hillary Clinton biopic, set during Watergate, in which Hillary, who has just been selected as a lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee to work on the impeachment proceedings, has to decide between her burgeoning career in Washington and moving to Arkansas to be with her boyfriend Bill. While screenwriter Young Il Kim drew from a variety of books and articles, it’s not technically an adaptation, so it doesn’t make our list -- but we’re really hoping the movie, currently in development, gets made.